In the THE ROTHESAY FISHERMAN, Charles' brother is referred to both as Harry and Henry on numerous occasions.
WILSON'S TALES OF THE BORDERS AND OF SCOTLAND.
Historical, Traditionary, & Imaginative.
With a Glossary.
One of the Original Editors and Contributors.
London: Walter Scott, 14 Paternoster Square. and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 1885.
THE GUIDWIFE OF COLDINGHAM, (John Mackay Wilson), 1
THE SURGEON'S TALES, (Alex. Leighton)— THE SOMNAMBULIST OF REDCLEUGH, 22
THE ROTHESAY FISHERMAN, (Oliver Richardson), 47
LEAVES FROM THE DIARY OF AN AGED SPINSTER, (John Mackay Wilson), 80
GEORDIE WILLISON, AND THE HEIRESS OF CASTLE GOWER, (Alexander Leighton), 93
THE SNOW STORM OF 1825, (Alexander Campbell), 117
GUILTY, OR NOT GUILTY, (Anon.), 149
THE SERGEANT'S TALES, (John Howell)— THE PALANTINES, 181
THE PARSONAGE: MY FATHER'S FIRESIDE, (Alexander Peterkin), 213
THE SEERS' CAVE, (William Hethrington, D.D.), 245
THE LAIDLEY WORM OF SPINDLESTON HEUGH, (John Mackay Wilson), 260
THE SABBATH WRECKS, (John Mackay Wilson), 276
WILSON'S TALES OF THE BORDERS, AND OF SCOTLAND.
THE GUIDWIFE OF COLDINGHAM; OR, THE SURPRISE OF FAST CASTLE.
Near where St. Abb stretches, in massive strength, into the sea, still terrible, even in ruins, may be seen the remains of Fast Castle, one of the most interesting in its history—as it is the most fearfully romantic in its situation—of all the mouldering strongholds which are still to be traced among the Borders, like monuments of war, crumbling into nothingness beneath the silent but destroying touch of time. After the death of the bluff Harry the Eighth of England, who had long kept many of the corruptible amongst the Scottish nobility and gentry in his pay, the ambitious Somerset, succeeding to the office of guardian of the young king, speedily, under the name of Protector, acquired an authority nothing inferior to the power of an absolute monarch. He had not long held the reins of government when he rendered it evident, that it was a part of his ambition to subdue Scotland, or the better portion of it, into a mere province of England.
The then governor of Scotland, Hamilton, Earl of Arran, (for Queen Mary was but a child,) was not ignorant of the designs of Somerset, and every preparation was made to repel him on his crossing the Borders. It was drawing towards evening on the first of September, 1547, when the Protector, at the head of an army of eighteen thousand men, arrived at Berwick; and nearly at the same instant, while the gloaming yet lay light and thin upon the sea, a fleet, consisting of thirty-four vessels of war, thirty transports, and a galley, were observed sailing round Emmanuel's head—the most eastern point of Holy Island. On the moment that the fleet was perceived, St. Abb's lighted up its fires, throwing a long line of light along the darkening sea, from the black shore to the far horizon: and scarce had the first flame of its alarm-fire waved in the wind, till the Dow Hill repeated the fiery signal; and, in a few minutes, Domilaw, Dumprender, and Arthur's Seat, exhibited tops of fire as the night fell down on them, bearing the tidings, as if lightnings flying on different courses revealed them, through Berwickshire and the Lothians, and enabling Roxburghshire and Fife to read the tale; while Binning's Craig, repeating the telegraphic fire, startled the burghers of Linlithgow on the one hand, and on the other aroused the men of Lanarkshire.
Before, therefore, the vessels had arrived in the bay, or the Protector's army had encamped in the Magdalen Fields around Berwick—Berwickshire, Roxburgh, the Lothians, Fife, and Lanark were in arms. The cry from the hills and in the glens was, "The enemy is come—the English—to arms!" The shepherd drove his flocks to the inaccessible places in the mountains; he threw down his crook and grasped his spear.
At the same time that Somerset crossed the Borders on the east, the Earl of Lennox, who, from disappointed ambition, had proved false to his country, entered it at the head of another English army to the west.
But I mean not to write a history of Somerset's invasion—of the plausible proposals which he made, and which were rejected—nor of the advantages which the Scots, through recklessness or want of discipline, flung away, and of the disasters which followed. All the places of strength upon the Borders fell into his hands, and he garrisoned them from his army and set governors over them. The first place of his attack was Fast Castle; in which, after taking possession of it, he left a governor and strong garrison, composed of English troops and foreign mercenaries, causing also the people around, for their own safety, to take to him an oath of fealty, renouncing their allegiance to the young queen. But while there were many who obeyed his command with reluctance, there were others who chose rather to endanger or forfeit their lives and property than comply with it. It had not, however, been two years in the hands of the English, when, by a daring and desperate act of courage, it was wrested from them.
A decree went forth from the English governor of the castle, commanding them to bring into it, from time to time, all necessary provisions for the use of the garrison, for which they should receive broad money in return; for Somerset and his chief officers—the Lord Grey and others—had caused it to be published, that they considered the inhabitants of that part of Scotland as the subjects of young Edward, in common with themselves, and not as a people with whom they were at war, or from whom their soldiers might collect provisions and pay them with the sword.
The English, indeed, paid liberally for whatsoever they received; and there was policy in their so doing, for there were not a few who preferred lucre to their country, and the effigy of a prince upon a coin to allegiance to their lawful monarch. But, while such obeyed with alacrity the command of the governor of Fast Castle, to bring provisions to his garrison, there were many others who acquiesced in it reluctantly, and only obeyed from the consciousness that disobedience would be the price of their lives.
At this period there dwelt in Coldingham a widow, named Madge Gordon. She was a tall and powerful woman, and her years might be a little below fifty. Daily she indulged in invectives against the English, and spoke contemptuously of the spirit of her countrymen in submitting to the mandate of the governor of Fast Castle. She had two cows and more than a score of poultry; but she declared that she would spill the milk of the one upon the ground every day, and throw the eggs of the other over the cliffs, rather than that either the one or the other should be taken through the gates of the castle while an English garrison held it.
Often, therefore, as Madge beheld her neighbours carrying their baskets on their arms, their creels or sacks upon their backs, or driving their horses, laden with provisions, towards the castle, her wrath would rise against them, and she was wont to exclaim—
"O ye slaves!—ye base loun-hearted beasts o' burden! hoo lang will ye boo before the hand that strikes ye, or kiss the foot that tramples on ye? Throw doun the provisions, and gang hame and bring what they better deserve; for, if ye will gie them bread, feed them on the point o' yer faithers' spears."
Some laughed as Madge spoke; but her words sank deep into the hearts of others; and a few answered—
"Ye are as daft as ever, Madge; but a haveral woman's tongue is nae scandal, and ye ken that the governor winna tak cognizance o' ye."
"Me ken or care for him, ye spiritless coofs, ye!" she replied; "gae tell him that Madge Gordon defies him and a' his men, as she despises you, and wad shake the dirt frae her shoon at baith the ane and the other o' ye. Shame fa' ye, ye degenerate, mongrel race! for, if ye had ae drap o' the bluid o' the men in yer veins wha bled wi' Wallace and wi' Bruce, before the sun gaed doun, the flag o' bonny Scotland wad wave frae the castle towers."
"Mother! mother!" said an interesting-looking girl of nineteen, who had come to the door as the voice of Madge waxed louder and more bitter—"dinna talk foolishly—ye will bring us a' into trouble."
"Trouble! ye silly lassie, ye!" rejoined Madge; "these are times indeed to talk o' the like o' us being brought into trouble, when our puir bluiding country is groaning beneath the yoke o' an enemy, and we see them harrying us not only oot o' hoose and ha', but even those that should be our protectors oot o' their manhood! See," added she, "do ye see wha yon is, skulking as far as he can get frae our door wi' the weel-filled sack upon his shouthers? It is yer ain dearie, Florence Wilson! O the betrayer o' his country!—He's a coward, Janet, like the rest o' them, and shall ne'er ca' ye his wife while I live to ca' ye daughter."
"O mother!" added the maiden, in a low and agitated voice—"what could poor Florence do? It isna wi' a man body as it is wi' the like o' us. If he didna do as the lave do, he wad be informed against, and he maun obey or die!"
"Let him die, then, as a man, as a Scotchman!" said the stern guidwife of Coldingham.
Florence Wilson, of whom Madge had spoken, was a young man of three or four and twenty, and who then held, as his fathers had done before him, sheep lands under the house of Home. He was one of those who obeyed reluctantly the command of the governor to bring provisions to the garrison; and, until the day on which Madge beheld him with the sack upon his shoulders, he had resisted doing so. But traitors had whispered the tale of his stubbornness and discontent in the castle; and, in order to save himself and his flocks, he that day took a part of his substance to the garrison. He had long been the accepted of Janet Gordon; and the troubles of the times alone prevented them, as the phrase went, from "commencing house together." He well knew the fierce and daring patriotism of his intended mother-in-law, and he took a circuitous route, in order to avoid passing her door, laden with a burden of provisions for the enemy. But, as has been told, she perceived him.
In the evening, Florence paid his nightly visit to Janet.
"Out! out! ye traitor!" cried Madge, as she beheld him crossing her threshold; "the shadow of a coward shall ne'er fall on my floor while I hae a hand to prevent it."
"I'm nae coward, guidwife," retorted Florence indignantly.
"Nae coward!" she rejoined; "what are ye, then? Did not I, this very day, wi' my ain een, behold ye skulking, and carrying provisions to the enemy!"
"Ye might," said Florence; "but ae man canna tak a castle, nor drive frae it five hundred enemies. Bide ye yet. Foolhardy courage isna manhood; and, had mair prudence and caution, and less confidence, been exercised by our army last year, we wouldna hae this day to mourn owre the battle o' Pinkie. I tell ye, therefore, again, just bide ye yet."
"Come in, Florence," said Madge; "draw in a seat and sit doun, and tell me what ye mean."
"Hoots, Florence," said Janet, in a tone partaking of reproach and alarm, "are ye gaun to be as daft as my mother? What matters it to us wha's king or wha's queen?—it will be lang or either the ane or the ither o' them do onything for us. When ye see lords and gentry in the pay o' England, and takin its part, what can the like o' you or my mother do?"
"Do! ye chicken-hearted trembler at yer ain shadow!" interrupted Madge; "though somewhat past its best, I hae an arm as strong and healthy as the best o' them, and the blood that runs in it is as guid as the proudest o' them."
Now, the maiden name of Madge was Home; and when her pride was touched, it was her habit to run over the genealogical tree of her father's family, which she could illustrate upon her fingers, beginning on all occasions—"I am, and so is every Home in Berwickshire, descended frae the Saxon kings o' England and the first Earls o' Northumberland." Thus did she run on, tracing their descent from Crinan, chief of the Saxons in the north of England, to Maldredus, his son, who married Algatha, daughter of Uthred, prince of Northumberland, and grand-daughter of Ethelrid, king of England; and from Maldredus to his son Cospatrick, of whose power William the Conqueror became jealous, and who was, therefore, forced to fly into Scotland in the year 1071, where Malcolm Canmore bestowed on him the manor of Dunbar, and many baronies in Berwickshire. Thus did she notice three other Cospatricks, famous and mighty men in their day, each succeeding Cospatrick the son of his predecessor; and after them a Waldreve, and a Patrick, whose son, William, marrying his cousin, he obtained with her the lands of Home, and, assuming the name, they became the founders of the clan. From the offspring of the cousin, the male of whom took the name of Sir William Home, and from him through eleven other successors, down to George, the fourth Lord Home, who had fallen while repelling the invasion of Somerset a few months before, did Madge trace the roots, shoots, and branches of her family, carrying it back through a period of more than six hundred years; and she glowed, therefore, with true aristocratic indignation at the remark of her daughter to Florence—"What can the like o' you or my mother do?" And she concluded her description of her genealogical tree by saying—"Talk noo the like o' yer mother, hizzy!"
"Aweel, mother," said Janet, mildly—"that may a' be; but there is nae cause for you fleeing into a tift upon the matter, for nae harm was meant. I only dinna wish Florence to be putting his life in jeopardy for neither end nor purpose. I'm sure I wish that oor nobility would keep to their bargain, and allow the queen, though she is but a lassie yet, to be married to young king Edward, and then we might hae peace in the land, and ither folk would be married as weel as them."
"We shall be married, Janet, my doo," said Florence, gazing on her tenderly—"only ye bide a wee."
Now, it must not be thought that Janet loved her country less than did her mother or her betrothed husband; but, while the land of blue mountains was dear to her heart, Florence Wilson was yet more dear; and it was only because they were associated with thoughts of him that they became as a living thing, as a voice and as music in her bosom. For, whence comes our fondness for the woods, the mountains, the rivers of nativity, but from the fond remembrances which their associations conjure up, and the visions which they recall to the memory of those who were dear to us, but who are now far from us, or with the dead? We may have seen more stupendous mountains, nobler rivers, and more stately woods—but they were not ours! They were not the mountains, the rivers, and the woods, by which we played in childhood, formed first friendships, or breathed love's tender tale in the ear of her who was beautiful as the young moon or the evening star, which hung over us like smiles of heaven; nor were they the fountains, the woods, and the rivers, near which our kindred, the flesh of our flesh, and the bone of our bone, SLEEP! But I digress.
"Tell me, Florence," said Madge, "what mean ye by 'bide a wee?' Is there a concerted project amongst ony o' ye, an' are ye waiting for an opportunity to carry it into effect?"
"No," answered he, "I canna say as how we hae devised ony practicable scheme o' owrecoming our oppressors as yet; but there are hundreds o' us ready to draw our swords an' strike, on the slightest chance o' success offering—and the chance may come."
"An' amongst the hundreds o' hands ye speak o'," returned Madge, "is there no a single head that can plot an' devise a plan to owrecome an' drive our persecutors frae the castle?"
"I doot it—at least I hae ne'er heard ony feasible-like plan proposed," said Florence, sorrowfully.
Madge sat thoughtful for a few minutes, her chin resting on her hand. At length she inquired—"When go ye back to sell provisions to them again?"
"This day week," was the reply.
"Then I shall tak my basket wi' eggs an' butter, an' gae wi' ye," answered Madge.
"O mother! what are ye sayin?" cried Janet. "Ye maun gang nae sic gate. I ken yer temper would flare up the moment ye heard a word spoken against Scotland, or a jibe broken on it; an' there is nae tellin' what might be the consequence."
"Leave baith the action an' the consequence to me, Janet, my woman," said the patriotic mother; "as I brew, I will drink. But ye hae naething to fear; I will be as mim in the castle as ye wad be if gieing Florence yer hand in the kirk."
The day on which the people were again to carry provisions to the garrison in Fast Castle arrived; and to the surprize of every one, Madge, with a laden basket on each arm, mingled amongst them. Many marvelled, and the more mercenary said—
"Ay, ay!—Madge likes to turn the penny as weel as ither folk. The English will hae guid luck if ony o' them get a bargain oot o' her baskets."
She, therefore, went to the castle, bearing provisions with the rest of the peasantry; but, under pretence of disposing of her goods to the best advantage, she went through and around the castle, and quitted it not until she had ascertained where were its strongest, where its weakest points of defence, and in what manner it was guarded.
When, therefore, Florence Wilson again visited her dwelling, she addressed him, saying—
"Noo, I hae seen oor enemies i' the heart o' their strength; an' I hae a word to say to ye that will try yer courage, and the courage o' the hunders o' guid men an' true that ye hae spoken o' as only bidin' their time to strike. Noo, is it yer opinion that, between Dunglass an' Eyemouth, ye could gather a hundred men willing an' ready to draw the sword for Scotland's right, an' to drive the invaders frae Fast Castle, if a feasible plan were laid before them?"
"I hae nae doot o't," replied he.
"Doots winna do," said she; "will ye try it?"
"Yes," said he.
"Florence, ye shall be my son," added she, taking his hand—"I see there is spirit in ye yet."
"Mother," said Janet earnestly, "what dangerous errand is this ye wad set him upon?—what do ye think it could matter to me wha was governor o' Fast Castle, if Florence should meet his death in the attempt?"
"Wheesht! ye silly lassie, ye," replied her mother; "had I no borne ye, I wad hae said that ye hadna a drap o' my bluid i' yer veins. What is't that ye fear? If they'll abide by my counsel, though it may try their courage, oor purpose shall be accomplished wi' but little scaith."
"Neither fret nor fear, dear," said Florence, addressing Janet; "I hae a hand to defend my head, an' a guid sword to guard baith." Then turning to her mother, he added—"An' what may be yer plan, that I may communicate it to them that I ken to be zealous in oor country's cause?"
"Were I to tell ye noo," said she, "that ye might communicate it to them, before we were ready to put it into execution, the story wad spread frae the Tweed to John o' Groat's, and frae St. Abb's to the Solway, and our designs be prevented. Na, lad, my scheme maun be laid before a' the true men that can be gathered together at the same moment, an' within a few hours o' its being put in execution. Do ye ken the dark copse aboon Houndwood, where there is a narrow and crooked opening through the tangled trees, but leading to a bit o' bonny green sward, where a thousand men might encamp unobserved?"
"I do," answered Florence.
"And think ye that ye could assemble the hundred men ye speak o' there, on this night fortnight?"
"I will try," replied he.
"Try, then," added she, "and I will meet ye there before the new moon sink behind the Lammermoors."
It was a few days after this that Madge was summoned to the village of Home, to attend the funeral of a relative; and while she was yet there, the castle of her ancestors was daringly wrested from the hands of the Protector's troops, by an aged kinsman of her own, and a handful of armed men. The gallant deed fired her zeal more keenly, and strengthened her resolution to wrest Fast Castle from the hands of the invaders. She had been detained at Home until the day on which Florence Wilson was to assemble the stout-hearted and trust-worthy in the copse above Houndwood. Her kindred would have detained her longer; but she resisted their entreaties, and took leave of them saying, that "her bit lassie, Janet, would be growing irksome wi' being left alane, an' that, at ony rate, she had business on hand that couldna be delayed."
She proceeded direct to the place of rendezvous, without going onwards to her own house; and, as she drew near the narrow opening which led to the green space in the centre of the dark copse, the young moon was sinking behind the hills. As she drew cautiously forward she heard the sound of voices, which gradually became audible.
"Well, Florence," said one, "what are ye waiting for? Where is the grand project that ye was to lay before us?"
"Florence," said others, "let us proceed to business. It is gaun to be very dark, and ye will remember we have to gang as far as the Peaths[A] the night yet."
[A] The Pease Bridge.
Florence answered as one perplexed, but in his wonted words—"Hae patience—bide a wee;" and added, in a sort of soliloquy, but loud enough to be overheard by his companions—"She promised to be here before the moon gaed down upon the Lammermoors."
"Wha did?—wha promised to be here?" inquired half a dozen voices.
"I did!" cried Madge, proudly, as she issued from the narrow aperture in the copse, and her tall figure was revealed by the fading moonbeams. With a stately step, she walked into the midst of them, and gazed round as though the blood and dignity of all the Homes had been centred in her own person.
"Weel, Madge," inquired they, "and, since ye are come, for what hae ye brought us here?"
"To try," added she, "whether, inheriting, as ye do, yer faithers' bluid, ye also inherit their spirit—to see whether ye hae the manhood to break the yoke o' yer oppressors, or if ye hae the courage to follow the example which the men o' Home set ye the other nicht."
"What have they done?" inquired Florence.
"Hearken," said she, "ane and a' o' ye, and I will tell ye; for, wi' my ain een, I beheld a sicht that was as joyfu' to me as the sight o' a sealed pardon to a condemned criminal. Ye weel ken that, for near twa years, the English have held Home Castle, just as they still hold Fast Castle, beside us. Now, it was the other nicht, and just as the grey gloam was darkening the towers, that an auld kinsman o' mine, o' the name o' Home, scaled the walls where they were highest, strongest, and least guarded; thirty gallant countrymen had accompanied him to their foot, but before they could follow his example, he was perceived by a sentinel, wha shouted out—'To arms!—to arms!' 'Cower, lads, cower!' said my auld kinsman, in a sort o' half whisper, to his followers; and he again descended the wall, and they lay down, with their swords in their hands, behind some whin bushes at the foot o' the battlements. There was running, clanking, and shouting through the castle for a time; but, as naething like the presence o' an enemy was either seen or heard, the sentry that had raised the alarm was laughed at, and some gaed back to their beds, and others to their wine. But, after about two hours, and when a'thing was again quiet, my kinsman and his followers climbed the walls, and, rushing frae sentinel to sentinel, they owrecam ane after anither before they could gie the alarm to the garrison in the castle; and, bursting into it, shouted—'Hurra!—Scotland and Home for ever!' Panic seized the garrison; some started frae their sleep—others reeled frae their cups—some grasped their arms—others ran, they knew not where—but terror struck the hearts o' ane and a'; and still, as the cry, 'Scotland and Home for ever!' rang frae room to room, and was echoed through the lang high galleries, it seemed like the shouting o' a thousand men; and, within ten minutes, every man in the garrison was made prisoner or put to the sword! And noo, neebors, what my kinsman and a handfu' o' countrymen did for the deliverance o' the Castle o' Home, can ye not do for Fast Castle, or will ye not—and so drive every invader oot o' Berwickshire?"
"I dinna mean to say, Madge," answered one, who appeared to be the most influential personage amongst her auditors—"I dinna mean to say but that your relation and his comrades hae performed a most noble and gallant exploit—one that renders them worthy o' being held in everlasting remembrance by their countrymen—and glad would I be if we could this night do the same for Fast Castle. But, woman, the thing is impossible; the cases are not parallel. It mightna be a difficult matter to scale the highest part o' the walls o' Home Castle, and ladders could easily be got for that purpose; but, at Fast Castle, wi' the draw-brig up, and the dark, deep, terrible chasm between you and the walls, like the bottomless gulf between time and eternity!—I say, again, for my part, the thing is impossible. Wha has strength o' head, even for a moment, to look doun frae the dark and dizzy height o' the Wolf's Crag?—and wha could think o' scaling it? Even if it had been possible, the stoutest heart that ever beat in a bosom would, wi' the sickening horror o' its owner's situation, before he was half-way up, be dead as the rocks that would dash him to pieces as he fell! Na, na, I should hae been glad to lend a helping and a willing hand to ony practicable plan, but it would be madness to throw away our lives where there couldna be the slightest possibility o' success."
"Listen," said Madge; "I ken what is possible, and what is impossible, as weel as ony o' ye. I meant that ye should tak for example the dauntless spirit o' my kinsman and the men o' Home, and no their manner o' entering the castle. But, if yer hearts beat as their hearts did, before this hour the morn's nicht, the invaders will be driven frae Fast Castle. In the morning we are ordered to take provisions to the garrison. I shall be wi' ye, and in the front o' ye. But, though my left arm carries a basket, beneath my cloak shall be hidden the bit sword which my guidman wore in the wars against King Harry; and, as I reach the last sentinel—'Now, lads! now for Scotland and our Queen!' I shall cry; and wha dare follow my example?"
"I dare! I will!" said Florence Wilson, "and be at yer side to strike doun the sentinel; and sure am I that there isna a man here that winna do or die, and drive oor enemies frae the castle, or leave his body within its wa's for them to cast into the sea. Every man o' us, the morn, will enter the castle wi' arms concealed about him, and hae them ready to draw and strike at a moment's warning. Ye canny say, freends, but that this is a feasible plan, and ye winna be outdone in bravery by a woman. Do ye agree to it?"
There were cries of—"Yes, Florence, yes!—every man o' us!"—and "It is an excellent plan—it is only a pity that it hadna been thocht o' suner," resounded on all sides; but "Better late than never," said others.
"Come round me, then," said Madge; and they formed a circle around her. "Ye swear now," she continued, "in the presence o' Him who see'th through the darkness o' night and searcheth the heart, that nane o' ye will betray to oor enemies what we hae this nicht determined on; but that every man o' ye will, the morn, though at the price o' his life, do yer utmost to deliver oor groaning country frae the yoke o' its invaders and oppressors! This ye swear?"
And they bowed their heads around her.
"Awa, then," added she, "ilka man to his ain hoose, and get his weapons in readiness." And, leaving the copse, they proceeded in various directions across the desolate moor. But Florence Wilson accompanied Madge to her dwelling; and, as they went, she said—
"Florence, if ye act as weel the morn as ye hae spoken this nicht, the morn shall my dochter, Janet, be yer wife, wi' a fu' purse for her portion that neither o' ye kens aboot."
He pressed her hand in the fulness of his heart; but she added—
"Na, na, Florence, I'm no a person that cares aboot a fuss being made for the sake o' gratitude—thank me wi' deeds. Remember I have said—a' depends on yer conduct the morn."
When they entered the house, poor Janet was weeping, because of her mother's absence, for she had expected her for two days; and her apprehensions were not removed when she saw her in the company of Florence, who, although her destined husband, and who, though he had long been in the habit of visiting her daily, had called but once during her mother's absence, and then he was sad and spoke little. She saw that her parent had prevailed on him to undertake some desperate project, and she wept for his sake.
When he arose to depart, she rose also and accompanied him to the door.
"Florence," said she, tenderly, "you and my mother hae some secret between ye, which ye winna communicate to me."
"A' that is a secret between us," said he, "is, that she consents that the morn ye shall be my winsome bride, if ye be willing, as I'm sure ye are; and that is nae secret that I wad keep frae ye; but I didna wish to put ye aboot by mentioning it before her."
Janet blushed, and again added—
"But there is something mair between ye than that, Florence, and why should ye hide it frae me?"
"Dear me, hinny!" said he, "I wonder that ye should be sae apprehensive. There is nae secret between yer mother an' me that isna weel-kenned to every ane in the country-side. But just ye hae patience—bide a wee—wait only till the morn; and, when I come to lead ye afore the minister, I'll tell ye a'thing then."
"An' wherefore no tell me the noo, Florence?" said she. "I am sure that there is something brewing, an' a dangerous something too. Daur ye no trust me? Ye may think me a weak an' silly creature; but, if I am not just so rash and outspoken as my mother, try me if I haena as stout a heart when there is a necessity for showing it."
"Weel, Janet, dear," said Florence, "I winna conceal frae ye that there is something brewing—but what that something is I am not at liberty to tell. I am bound by an oath not to speak o't, and so are a hunder others, as weel as me. But the morn it will be in my power to tell ye a'. Noo, just be ye contented, and get ready for our wedding."
"And my mother kens," Janet was proceeding to say, when her mother's voice was heard, crying from the house—
"Come in, Janet—what are ye doing oot there in the cauld?—ye hae been lang enough wi' Florence the nicht—but the morn's nicht ye may speak to him as lang as ye like. Sae come in, lassie."
As the reader may suppose, Madge was not one whose commands required to be uttered twice; and, with a troubled heart, Janet bade Florence "good-night," and returned to the cottage.
It was a little after sunrise on the following day, when a body of more than a hundred peasantry, agreeably to the command of the governor, appeared before the castle, laden with provisions. Some of them had the stores which they had brought upon the backs of horses, but which they placed upon their own shoulders as they approached the bridge. Amongst them were fishermen from Eyemouth and Coldingham, shepherds from the hills with slaughtered sheep, millers, and the cultivators of the patches of arable ground beyond the moor. With them, also, were a few women carrying eggs, butter, cheese, and poultry; and at the head of the procession (for the narrowness of the drawbridge over the frightful chasm, beyond which the castle stood, caused the company to assume the form of a procession as they entered the walls) was Madge Gordon, and her intended son-in-law, Florence Wilson.
The drawbridge had been let down to them; the last of the burden-bearers had crossed it; and Madge had reached the farthest sentinel, when suddenly dropping her basket, out from beneath her grey cloak gleamed the sword of her dead husband!
"Now, lads!—now for Scotland and our Queen!" she exclaimed, and as she spoke, the sword in her hand pierced the body of the sentinel. At the same instant every man cast his burden to the ground, a hundred hidden swords were revealed, and every sentinel was overpowered.
"Forward, lads! forward!" shouted Madge.
"Forward!" cried Florence Wilson, with his sword in his hand, leading the way. They rushed into the interior of the castle; they divided into bands. Some placed themselves before the arsenal where arms were kept, while others rushed from room to room, making prisoners of those of the garrison who yielded willingly, and showing no quarter to those who resisted. Many sought safety in flight, some flying half-naked, aroused from morning dreams after a night's carouse, and almost all fled without weapons of defence. The effect upon the garrison was as if a thunderbolt had burst in the midst of them. Within half an hour, Fast Castle was in the hands of the peasantry, and the entire soldiery who had defended it had either fled, were slain, or made prisoners.
Besides striking the first blow, Madge had not permitted the sword of her late husband to remain idle in her hands during the conflict. And, as the conquerors gathered round Florence Wilson, to acknowledge to him that to his counsel, presence of mind, and courage, as their leader, in the midst of the confusion that prevailed, they owed their victory, and the deliverance of the east of Berwickshire from its invaders, Madge pressed forward, and, presenting him her husband's sword, said—
"Tak this, my son, and keep it—it was the sword o' a brave man, and to a brave man I gie it—and this night shall ye be my son indeed."
"Thank ye, mother—mother!" said Florence. And as he spoke a faint smile crossed his features.
But scarce had he taken the sword in his hand, ere a voice was heard, crying—
"Where is he?—where shall I find him?—does he live?—where is my mother?"
"Here, love!—here! It is my Janet!" cried Florence; but his voice seemed to fail him as he spoke.
"Come here, my bairn," cried her mother, "and in the presence of these witnesses receive a hand that ye may be proud o'."
As part of the garrison fled through Coldingham, Janet had heard of the surprise by which the castle had been taken, and ran towards it to gather tidings of her mother and affianced husband; for she now knew the secret which they would not reveal to her.
As she rushed forward, the crowd that surrounded Florence gave way, and, as he moved forward to meet her, it was observed that he shook or staggered as he went; but it was thought no more of; and when she fell upon his bosom, and her mother took their hands and pressed them together, the multitude burst into a shout and blessed them. He strove to speak—he muttered the word "Janet!" but his arms fell from her neck, and he sank as lifeless on the ground.
"Florence! my Florence!—he is wounded—murdered!" cried the maiden, and she flung herself beside him on the ground.
Madge and the spectators endeavoured to raise him; but his eyes were closed; and, as he gasped, they with difficulty could understand the words he strove to utter—"Water—water!"
He had, indeed, been wounded—mortally wounded—but he spoke not of it. They raised him in their arms and carried him to an apartment in the castle; but, ere they reached it, the spirit of Florence Wilson had fled.
Poor Janet clung to his lifeless body. She now cried—"Florence!—Florence!—we shall be married to-night?—yes!—yes!—I have everything ready!" And again she spoke bitter words to her mother, and said that she had murdered her Florence. The spectators lifted her from his body, and Madge stood as one on whom affliction, in the midst of her triumph, had fallen as a palsy, depriving her of speech and action.
"My poor bereaved bairn!" she at length exclaimed; and she took her daughter in her arms and kissed her—"ye hae indeed cause to mourn, for Florence was a noble lad!—but, oh, dinna say it was my doing, hinny!—dinna wyte yer mother!—will ye no, Janet? It is a great comfort that Florence has died like a hero."
But Janet never was herself again. She became, as their neighbours said, a poor, melancholy, maundering creature, going about talking of her Florence and the surprise of Fast Castle, and ever ending her story—"But I maun awa hame and get ready, for Florence and I are to be married the nicht."
Madge followed her, mourning, wheresoever she went, bearing with and soothing all her humours. But she had not long to bear them; for, within two years, Janet was laid by the side of Florence Wilson, in Coldingham kirkyard; and, before another winter howled over their peaceful graves, Madge lay at rest beside them.
THE SURGEON'S TALES.
THE SOMNAMBULIST OF REDCLEUGH.
It is now many years since I visited a patient, at the distance of some sixty miles from the proper circuit of my practice. On one occasion, when with him, I received a letter from a gentleman, who subscribed himself as one of the trustees of Mr. Bernard[B] of Redcleugh, requesting me to visit, on my return home, the widow of that gentleman, who still resided in the old mansion, and whose mind had received a shock from some domestic affliction, any allusion to which was, for some reason, very specially reserved. I may remark, that I believe I owed this application to some opinions I was known to entertain on the subject of that species of insanity produced by moral causes, and which is to be carefully distinguished from the diathetic mania, so often accompanied by pathological changes in the brain. It is scarcely necessary to inform the reader, that we have always a better chance for a cure in the one case than in the other, insomuch indeed as, in the first, we have merely functional derangement; in the second, organic change. I always maintain there is no interest about insane people, except to the man of science; and even he very soon gets to that "ass's bridge," on the other side of which Nature, as the genius of occult things, stands with a satirical smile on her face, as she sees the proud savans toppling over into the Lethe of sheer ignorance, and getting drowned for their insane curiosity. In the asylum in France, mentioned by De Vayer, the inmates enjoyed exceedingly the imputed madness of the visiting physician. The same play is acted in the world all throughout. Our insanity has only a little more method in it—and while I avoid any description of the madness of Mrs. Bernard, I will have to set forth a story, which, leading to that madness, has in it apparently as much of insanity as may be found in the ravings of a maniac.
[B] I find it more convenient, in this tale, to give names to my personages, in place of initials.
I obeyed the call to Redcleugh, where I found the res domi in a peculiar position. There were few inmates in the large old house. Besides the invalid herself, there was an old cook and a butler, by name Francis, who had been in the family for many years, and whose garrulity was supplied from an inexhaustible fountain—the fate and fortunes of the Bernards. My patient was a lovely woman in body—a maniac in mind. Her affliction had suddenly shot up into her brain, and left untouched the lineaments of her beauty, excepting the expression of the eye, which had become nervous and furtive, oscillating between the extreme of softness and the intensity of ferocity. Having been cautioned by Francis to make no allusion to her husband or to certain children, whom he named, or to the word "book," and many other things, I contented myself, in the first instance, with a general examination of her symptoms; and, as it was late before I arrived, I resolved upon remaining all night, which would enable me to see her again in the morning. I had supper served up to me by Francis, who brought me some wine which had been in the house for fifty years, and told me stories of the family, extending back twice that period. Sometimes these old legends would be interrupted for a moment by a shrill cry, coming from a source which we both knew. All else in this house was under the spell of Angerana, the genius of silence. There is something peculiar in the sound of a common voice in a large house, filled with memorials of those who had lived in it, and yet with no living sounds to break the dull heavy air, which seems to thicken by not being moved. It appeared as if I had been suddenly thrown into a region of romance, but my experiences were not pleasant. I wished to escape to my own professional thoughts again, and desired to go to bed.
I was accordingly, not without some efforts on the part of my entertainer to prolong his stories, ushered into my bed-room—a large apartment, hung with pictures, some very old, and some very new. Francis put the candle down, and left me. It was not long before I was undressed and under the bed-clothes; but not being sure about sleeping, I left the candle burning, intending to rise and extinguish it when I found myself more inclined to fall over into the rest I required. The old legends began to pass through my mind, and I was engrossed with the spirit of the past. Time makes poetry out of very common things, and then we are to remember, what we do not often think of, that the most ordinary life cannot be passed without encountering some incidents which smack of the romantic. Nay, every man's life, as a bright gleam thrown on the dark abyss which separates him from eternity, is all through a romance, in the midst of that greater one, seen by us only as shadows—the negatives of some positives, perhaps, witnessed by eyes on the other side. I have always been tinged by something of the spirit of old Bruno, that dreamer, whose most real realities were no other than umbery forms—flakes of shadow—cast off by a central light from the real objects, of which we are the mere shadowy representatives. All the breathing, throbbing, active beings, who for two hundred years had run along these narrow passages of the old house, and peered into half-open doors, or out of the small skew-topped windows—danced, sang, laughed and wept—died, and been carried out—were to each other as such umbery things; and I, the present subsisting shadow, received them all into my living microcosm, where, as in a mirror, they existed again, scarcely less shadowy than before.
Somehow or another I could not get to sleep; not that I had any fears: these were out of the question with me. My vigils were attributable to a fancy, wrought upon by the recitals of the old butler, illustrated by the very concrete things which had been used by the personages he described. There were the chairs they sat on, the beds they slept on, the piano they played on, all as they had been left. It was impossible for me to conceive that there was yet no connection between these things and the old family. The pictures, too, were still there, in the various rooms, some of them in my bed-room. The light of my eyes seemed to have disenchanted these silent staring personages. They came forth and occupied themselves as they had been wont before they became pictures. The chair of the first of the late Mr. Bernard's two wives—that "angel whose look was an eternal smile," as Francis poetically described her—appeared to have the power of drawing her down into it; but then the attraction was not less for the second wife, "whose fate was a terrible mystery;" and thus would I get confused. Then, to which of these did the little dark fellow on the south wall belong—he who seemed to have been scorched by too strong a sun—and the girl beside them, who looked as if she had been blanched by too bright a moon—which of the two was her mother?
At last I got out of bed, and rummaged for some stray volume to disenchant me out of the imaginary world of these Bernards. I drew out one or two drawers, which had been so long shut that they had lost their allegiance to the hand. I peered into an escritoire, and another old cabinet, which creaked and groaned at being disturbed by a hand not a Bernard's. All was empty. There was one drawer which refused to come out to the full extent. Something seemed to be jammed between it and the back of the escritoire. Man is an enterprising animal; a little resistance sets his energies a-spring. I would not be baulked. I would know what the impediment was and work out the solution of the difficulty. By pulling hard the obstacle gave way. The drawer followed my hand, while my body fell back on the floor. Psha! some stray leaves of an old pamphlet fluttered about. I had dismembered the obstacle, and would now collect the fragments. I had got for my pains an old brochure, embellished by dreadful woodcuts, of the old Newgate calender style, and entitled, "The true and genuine history of the murderer, Jane Grierson, who poisoned her mistress, and thereby became the wife of her master, Josiah Temple;" the date 1742. I was no fancier of awful histories of murderers, yet I would read myself asleep amidst horrors rather than lie with my imagination in wakeful subjugation to the images of these eternal Bernards. Bernard still! on the top of the title page was written "Amelia Bernard." The charm was here too. Which of these fair creatures on the wall was the proprietor of this brochure? She had read it surely with care. She must have cherished it, or why identify it as her own? Perhaps she was a lover of old books; it could not be that she was a lover of cruel stories. Those eyes were made for throwing forth the lambent light of affection and love; how unlike to the staring blood-shot orbs of that Jane Grierson on that terrific woodcut! Yet, true to the nature of my species, at least my sex, I found in the grim pamphlet that inexpressible something which recommends coarse recitals of human depravity even to cultivated minds, and which consists probably in the conformity between the thing itself and the description of it; the rugged words, semblances of the rugged implements, and the savage actions of cruelty, address themselves to the latent barbarism which lies as the lowest stratum of our many piled nature, and receive the savage response at the moment we blush for humanity. These dire images of the murderer's story were stronger than those of the Bernards—even of those lovely faces on the wall—and as the candle burned down, and the red wick grew up, I read and read on, how the cruel fiend did destroy while she fawned upon her victim; how that victim, overcome by the kindness of her enemy, praised her to her husband, who loved his wife to distraction; and how she, even in her devoted gratitude, recommended her murderer as her successor to the bed she lay on, and to those arms where she so often had enjoyed the pressure of his love. Nor was the recommendation ineffectual, for the said wicked Jane did become the wife of her victim's husband. The old horrid savagery of our criminal literature!—not yet abated—never to be abated—only glossed with tropes and figures more hideous than the plain narrative of blood.
It was a vain thought that I should read myself asleep among the terrible images suggested by my brochure. I was even more vigilant than before. Then, that Francis seemed never at rest; I heard him clambering up stairs, tramping along passages, shutting doors, speaking to himself, just as if all the actions of his prior life were being gone over again. I would have another visit, and another long narrative of some Bernard, whose picture was somewhere in a red or blue room, and who had been, as usual, with all those bearded individuals who hung on walls, either at the crusades under Peter the hermit, or at Flodden under James, or at Culloden under Charles. The clock struck, with a sound of grating rust, two; and—tramp, tramp—he trudged along the passage. The door opened, and in came my chronicler.
"Doctor, I saw your light," said he, "and you know it was always my duty, when the family were in their old home here, to see that all the lights were out o' nights; aye ever after the east wing was burned down, through aunt Marjory's love of reading old romances. I hope I did not disturb you."
"No," replied I; "pray, Francis, I need not ask which of these two pictured beauties is Amelia, my patient? The likeness is good."
"Yes, there she is," said he, with a return of his old enthusiasm. "See her light locks and her blue eyes. She was the mother of that fair child. Don't you see the daughter in the mother and the mother in the daughter? But I cannot look long on these pictures. My heart fails and my head runs round. Look at the dark one. It was a terrible night that when she came to Redcleugh. My wife, who now lies in Deathscroft, down among the elms yonder, could not sleep for the screeching of the owls, as if every horned devil of them shouted woe! woe!—to the house of Redcleugh."
"Nonsense, Francis, omens—all nonsense," I said, interrupting him.
"So said I to Christy, just as you say, doctor. So say we all, every one of us, here and everywhere, always, just until we are pulled up at a jerk by some one of God's acts, when we see His finger pointed to the sign. You are not so old as I am, and have something to learn. Signs are made only when there are to be judgments, and judgments are not according to the common ways of heaven."
"What did Mr. Bernard do," asked I, "to bring upon him this judgment which appears to you to have been so fearful?"
"I am not in the secrets of God's ways with erring man," replied he. "But who can tell how my master got Lillah—that's her there with these dark eyes—his first wife? He had been away for years in the eastern countries, and he never wrote to any one that he was to bring a wife with him. He brought her, amidst the storm of that fearful night, as if she had been a bird which he had rescued from the blast, so cowering and timid did she appear, always clinging to the laird, and looking at him with such beseeching eyes, and so unlike the women of our land—aye, for it was no northern sun lighted up these eyes; and as for a heathen faith imparting such gentleness, we could understand it no way. 'Twas all a hurry in Redcleugh as well as a sort of fright among us in the hall, every one whispering and wondering and questioning all to no end; for from that night we never knew more of her home or kindred, save that it was suspected she was a Circassian, and had left a noble home for the love she bore to master. Nor was she ever inquired after by her friends, except once, when a great eastern lord, as they said, came in a strange equipage to see her; but her change to a Christian shocked and angered him, so that high words rose and even reached our ears. He spoke of the faith she had forsworn, of Allah, and Mahomet, and the Koran, and she with tears responded Christ, the Saviour of all mankind, and his holy mother, and the cross of Calvary, so that he was made more angry; and then he spoke of Euphrosyne, her mother, as we thought, and again the tears rolled down these cheeks, as she clung to master and lay upon his neck, sobbing as if her heart would burst in the battle between the daughter and the wife. The stranger departed in anger, nor did he break his fast at Redcleugh, and many a day afterwards my young lady was in tears. 'Twas not long till she had that boy, whom she bore after many days of labour, with such pain that there was not a servant in the household did not look as if her own salvation depended upon the issue of that protracted struggle, so beloved was she, sir; so respected, so adored, so pitied; and as for Mr. Bernard, he was not himself—scarcely a man—and little wonder either, for his face was ever the attraction of her eyes, and every look seemed to be watched by her as if all her happiness hung upon one of his smiles. Such doings were the wonder of us all in these parts; for you know we are rougher lovers in our cold land, and neither Christy, nor I, nor any of us, could understand how, on the face of this earth, there could be such affection—not a single drop of bitterness, not a ruffle on the smooth surface. Why, sir! did we not all, to satisfy our self-love, and our country's custom, call it very idolatry; but it was only a little envy which we, as it were, stole to ourselves, as a sweet unction to our sores, and when these were mended we loved her the more—nay, we could do nothing less; for even the devil's spleen couldn't detect an unevenness to hang upon it a suspicion against her."
"You are even more partial, Francis, than the painter," said I, "whom I have been charging with the fault of drawing upon his fancy to enable him to draw upon our credulity. She looks scarcely earthly."
"It's no use my description, sir. There are certain perfections we cannot attribute to God's creatures, because we suffer by the comparison. They say if there's not now and then a little anger there's a want. Oh! they will say God's image is not perfect if it have not a dash of our own evil in it. But experience is the mother of wonders as well as wisdom. Aye, sir, years of intercourse, even at a servant's distance, are worth more than your theories in these days."
"I suspect you have been in the library, Francis," said I; "you have opened books as well as bottles."
"Aye, sir, and the book of all books," replied he seriously; "but I hope I am not irreverend when I say that God may lead us to understand the first image in Eden by showing us sometimes something better here than what we can feel within our own hearts."
"Oh, I am not sceptical," said I; for I thought he was pained by my remark, as if I doubted the qualities of his idol. "I believe all you have said of poor Lillah; and I love for the sake of my own matrimonial hopes to believe it, and more. But this idol died!"
"And died young, sir; perhaps because she was an idol," replied he. "They don't live long, sir, these creatures. They're like some of those bright winged things of the East, of which I have read, that exist only so long as the rose blooms on which they hang and live. But my lady Lillah never dwined—only there came a sadness over her, and master noticed that she began to cherish more than usual a miniature which she carried about with her in her bosom—the figure of a lady—I have seen it often—so like herself you'd have said they were of the same family—'twas her mother, whom she called Euphrosyne. Even now I think I see her sitting in the rose arbour in the garden, with little Caleb by her side, gazing at that picture, so long, so thoughtfully, so pitifully that she seemed ready to weep; then she would, as if recalled by remorse, hug the child, and bid him run for his father; then Mr. Bernard would no sooner come than she would be so much more loving than was even her wont, that he seemed oppressed by the very fervour of her affection. Master was a quiet man, sir, and full of thought; and he soon saw that it would be good for my lady that she should have a companion. So the next thing we heard was that Amelia Temple, who had been governess over the muir at Abbey Field, and had been several times at Redcleugh with Mr. Orchardstoun's daughters, was engaged to come to us at the term. And she came. The wind did not whistle that night, nor the owl sound his horn; there was no omen, sir, and this will please you, though it does not shake me in my faith in heaven's warnings. You see Amelia there (holding up the candle, now nearly in the socket), I need not describe what the painter has copied so faithfully. But master did not look kindly on that face, beautiful as it is, with that flashing eye and joyful expression. No, 'twas not till my lady grew distractedly fond of her that he looked sweetly on her (in the right way) for the love she gave to and got from her he loved the best of all the world. Oh! 'twas a beautiful sight, sir, those women. The rose of the west was a match for the lily of the east; then the pensive sweetness of the one, and the innocent light-heartedness of the other, met and mingled in a friendship without guile—a love without envy."
"Your last visit, Francis," I said, with a smile which I could not conceal, "must have been to the poets of the library."
"'Tis only truth, sir," resumed he. "When one sees a beautiful thing and feels the beauty—a privilege which is probably never denied at all times to any of God's creatures, and does not belong exclusively to the high born or the learned—he is a poet, be he a gauger or a butler. Aye, sir, a man may be a poet when his nose is right over the mouth of a bottle of burgundy, vintage '81."
"And not very poetical when he reflects that there is not a bottle left in the house," said I.
"He has still 'the pleasures of hope,'" rejoined Francis, with a little newborn moisture on his dry lips.
"Well," rejoined I, as I began to yawn from pure want of sleep, "there is at least little of either poetry or pleasure in 'hope deferred.' We will moisten these dry legends of the Bernards by a little of that burgundy of theirs now."
And this chronicler of the Bernards, as well as of something better than small beer, soon handed me a large glassful of this prince of wines.
"You will require all the benefit of that, sir," said he, "if I am to go on with my story."
"I'm not afraid," said I, listlessly, "after what I have read of the Grierson horrors."
The old man turned upon me a strange, wild look, rendered grotesque, if not ludicrous, by the effect of the glassful he had at that moment taken at my request. "Ah! you have heard—yet surely it is impossible. Was it not all between me and master? Who other could know of it? And the book! Oh, it was never found."
"I know nothing of these mysteries," replied I, not really understanding him, yet amazed at his appearance, as with long grey locks, shaking by his excitement, he kept staring at me in the dim light—for the candle was now out, and the fire burned red and dull. A little more conjuring would have brought all these pictures out into the room, and even as it was, I was beginning to transform my companion's shadow, as it lay on the arm chair behind him, into the very person itself of Lillah Bernard.
"Doctor," he said, gravely, "you must know the dark secret of this apartment."
"Nothing," replied I. "Go on; you have roused my curiosity. I know nothing of the Bernard's but what you have told me, and I request to know more. Go on, Francis."
He was not satisfied; continued to search, so far as he could, my face; but I wore him out.
"It's no use denying it, sir," he at length said, "but take your own way now;" then heaving a deep sigh, which might have been heard at the farthest end of the large room, so silent was all, he went on: "'Twas not to last, sir, all that happiness among those three, and little Caleb was the centre by which they were all joined. There's an enemy abroad to such heart-unions—unseen by all but God, who views him with the eye of anger, but lets him have his way for a season, and why we know it. Such little Edens grow up here and there among roses, as if to remind us of the one paradise which has gone, and to make us hope for the other which is to come; the old tragedy is wrought within a circuit of a few feet and the reach of a few hearts. Oh! the old fiend triumphs with the old laugh on his dark cheek. Yes, sir, it is even so; there is nothing new with the devil, nor nothing old, nor will there be till his neck is fastened; but in this meanwhile of days and years of time, oh! how the soul pants as it looks through the clouds of sorrow which rise under his dark wing, and can see no light, save through the deep grave where lie those once beautiful things in corruption. 'Twas the beauty did it all, sir; the enemy cannot stand that loveliness; it makes him wild; he raves to get between the hearts and tear them so that the sanctified temples shall have no incense in them—nothing save the heavy odours of carrion. My lady Lillah one day felt a drowsiness come over her; it seemed, as Christy said, she felt only as if she had been inclined to sleep at an unusual time; she made no complaint, but Mr. Bernard observed something in her eye, and his watchfulness took alarm at every turn of her quiet manner. The drowsiness increased, and then it was observed that her pulse was slow and languid; it seemed to beat with fewer pulses every hour, and then master became more alarmed, and Amelia could not be away from her an instant. 'Twas strange the change which all of a sudden took place in Miss Temple; the gay laugh which Mr. Bernard used to encourage as a welcome light thrown on the soul of his wife was no more heard; a pitiful sympathy took its place, and, as Christy described it, looked like the light which we see so beautiful in the thin haze when the sun seems to melt all through it; it was the spirit of love, sir, dissolved in the shadows of grief. She hung over our dear lady as if she would have poured her own spirit into her to raise the still ebbing pulses. Nothing would stop that ebbing; the pulse would beat a little stronger after something given to her, but never quicker. Then these long silken eyelashes fell farther and farther down, and the voice which had ever been all meekness, fell and fell into half whispers. At length she said something into master's ear; and he motioned to Miss Temple to go out for a little, but Christy remained. It was an awful moment, sir, when she made a sign that she would speak. 'Dear Edward,' she said, as she seemed to try to lift higher the drooping lids, 'I will never more see the beautiful valley of the Kabarda, where stands my father's castle, with its gardens and roses of Shiraz. Oh, strange it seems to me, as all the things about me grow dim, the vision of those beloved scenes of my childhood wax brighter and brighter. I hear my father's voice crying Euphrosyne, and my mother's Lillah; my brothers and sisters take up the cry, and the mountaineers salute the favourite daughter of their chief. But she is here in this far land, and you, my best beloved, are there before her. Edward, I am going to die—soon—soon. I wished the dear Amelia away for a little—only a little—to be here again, and never to go more. She is faithful and loving and true. Edward; listen, my love: when I am gone, and you can forget me, take that dear girl into that place where you treasured me—into your affections, as your wife, Edward. The thought pleases me, for I think you will in her marry happiness, and my life seems to ebb away in the hope that you may be with her as you have been with me. Farewell; bring Caleb to kiss me before I go. There is a voice in my ears; it is Allah! Allah! but it is not listened to by the heart which whispers Jesus! the Mediator! the Saviour!'
"And with these words in her lips she died. O, sir, had you seen master—it was pitiful; and as for Amelia, who knew nothing of Lillah's words, she kept weeping till her eyes were inflamed. But the grief was everywhere throughout Redcleugh. It seemed as if some dreadful fate had befallen the whole household; gloom—gloom and sadness all about—in every face—in every heart; for never was a daughter of Scotland beloved as was this dear lady of the far east; and I think somehow it was her having died so far away from the land of her kindred that softened the hearts of the people, and made them take on as I never saw servants take on for a mistress. 'Twould be a sharp eye, sir, that could distinguish now, in the vault of death's croft, the grey ashes of the beautiful Circassian from the dust of the Bernards—ay, or that of my poor Christian Dempster! It was now a long dark night to the house of Redcleugh, but the longest night is at last awakened by a sun in the morning. Mr. Bernard—always a moody man—scarcely opened his mouth for months and months. He was like a tree, that stands erect after being blasted—it may move by the winds, but the sun has no warmth for it, and there is nothing inside or at the root to give it life. They say that when a beloved wife dies, it is to the husband like the sun going away out of the firmament, and that by-and-by she appears as a pale moon. Ay, sir; everything here is full of change. Mr. Bernard's moon had no waning in it, till he began to catch the echoes of Miss Amelia's voice as he wandered among the woods. It was the grey dawn of another sun, and the sun rose and rose, promising to gild the east again with its glory. The long burden was taken off Amelia. Her laugh began again to enliven Redcleugh, when she saw that Mr. Bernard was able to bear it. Then, sir, to bear it was to begin to love it, for it was the most infectious joyfulness that ever gladdened man's ears. The change, once begun, went on; he hung upon her voice as if it had been music. Every laugh shook him out of his long misery—it appeared to be to him like new life running along the nerves of the old dead tabernacle. So might one think of a man in the desert, as he looks down into the well, with the reflection of the sun in it; the water is drunk in living light; he shakes off all the horrors of his long-borne thirst, and rises renewed and glad. It was pitiful—yea, it was pleasant too—to see how he followed her, gazed at her, listened to her, just as if he were always praying her, for mercy's sake, to give him some more of that medicine of his spirit. But, perhaps, he never would have thought of marrying Amelia, but for the parting words of Lillah. Christy, in her curious way, said that it was Lillah's moon that lighted him on to the rising of the new sun of Amelia; and as Christy wanted this new match, for the sake of saving, as she thought, the life of our master—it was strange enough that she saw no omens now save good ones; for was it not a good one, that every living thing about Redcleugh looked as joyful as Amelia herself? A wonderful work this world, sir! No magician could have worked a greater wonder than the scene of that marriage after the scene of that deathbed; yet it delighted me to see old Redcleugh all in a blaze again, and to go down into the old catacombs for the old-crusted vintages. Bless your heart!—it was just like the beginning of a new term of life to me. Then the memory of Lillah threw no shade over the scene of enjoyment, for we all knew that if her spirit were not hovering over her beloved Circassia, it would be here looking down on the fulfilment of her dying wish."
Here Francis drew breath, as if to prepare himself for something much more wonderful. It may easily be conceived that he had enlisted my sympathy, as well by the facts of his story, as his manner of telling it; and as one turns to the woodcut of a tale to get his impressions enlivened or verified, I felt a desire to see again, by the light of a candle, the face of the second wife. Francis gratified me by getting another candle, lighting it, and holding it up full in the face of Amelia.
"'Twas all well for Redcleugh for a time," he resumed, "save for me, who lost my dear Christy shortly after Mira was born. That's she there, sir, as I have told you, alongside of my lady Amelia. When the grief was still heavy upon me, I was surprised by an almost sudden change in Mr. Bernard. I had gone up in the morning, expecting to find him in his dressing-room, which, as you see, enters as well from the lobby as by a door from the parlour, where breakfast was served. As I proceeded along the passage, I saw my lady hurrying away, with her handkerchief over her eyes, and her right hand held up, as if she were addressing Heaven; then deep sobs came from her, and a groan, which burst from the heart as she turned away into the west angle, sounded through the long lobbies and corridors. Master was not in his dressing-room. I heard his voice calling me from his bed-room, and I started at the sound, so unlike his utterance—so deep, heart-ridden, and agonized. On entering, I found him in his morning gown, sitting in that chair; his head thrown back, and his eyes fixed on my lady Lillah's portrait. It seemed, also, as if Amelia could not rest in the room in the west angle, where I thought I had seen her hurrying. Her foot was distinctly heard as she passed again along the lobby, which stretches along to the east tower, and passes this room, where my master and I were. A succession of groans followed, and died away as she receded. Mr. Bernard was too much occupied by some heart-stupefying thought to heed these sounds, and I stood before him not knowing what to say, far less what to do. At length he held up his hands, and placing one on my arm, said, in a voice which seemed the sound of one choking:—
"'Francis, you are an old friend, not a servant—not now at least. I trust you. The house of Redcleugh is doomed, nor shall a Bernard be ever again happy within its walls.'
"'What is wrong, master?' I inquired.
"'The core,' said he; 'the master's heart. I must go to the East again. There may be peace there for me; here, in my father's house, there is none. But what shall become of Caleb and Mira?'
"My heart was too full to answer, and still Amelia's groans came from the passages, changing and changing, like the voice of a restless spirit. My master rose, and, folding his arms, paced along the room. His brow was knit tight as the muscles would draw. He seemed to contract his arms, as if to compress his heart—nor did a word escape from him. A thought seized me, that, like the older Bernards, he was under a fit of alienation. I made for the door, to seek my lady Amelia, and even in her agonies to consult her what was to be done. My master seized me sharply by the arm.
"'Whither going?' he said.
"'For my lady,' replied I.
"'For Amelia?' he said—'for the murderer of my Lillah, my first love, my angel?'
"I stood petrified, the word 'murderer' twittering on my shaking lips in fragments.
"'Yes,' he said, 'come in, come in—bolt that door; the other is already cared for. Francis, you know how my Lillah died; there was no disease—she slept away as a drugged victim. Now, listen. During this last night I was awoke by the restlessness of Amelia. I heard her leave my side, and rise from the bed'—that on which you are now lying.—'The rush-light burned on the mantelpiece, and I could see my wife, as she rose and began to pace the floor. I called out gently, "Amelia;" but got no answer. Her eyes, I saw, were fixed; and she moved her arms, as if she were addressing some imaginary being. I concluded she was sleep-walking, and immediately she began to speak, as she paced backwards and forwards. Part of what she said I lost, but I could join together enough for conviction.
"'"She stood between me and my love," she said, as she stopped for a moment, laying one hand upon another, "and it was necessary she should be put out of the way. A Grierson was never a waverer when a deed of blood was to be done." "How did you do it?" "How did I do it? Poison! I made her sleep the long sleep, which the sun never breaks, nor the moon, nor time." "What poison did you say?" "The sleepy poison. I made for her a draught, that I might draw the sweet life away; and"—
"'She stopped and laughed, as a sleep-walker laughs—hollow and distant.
"'"And get into the Temple she occupied. Was you still kind to her while you watched the effect of your draught?" "Was I, did you say? Yes, very kind. Oh! I nursed her dying spirit, that he might think me a ministering angel to his wife, whom I wanted to succeed. He was deceived. Yes, yes; simple fool, he was deceived. Ay, and not deceived, for I loved him."
"'She began to walk again to and fro, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, then of a sudden turned and stood—"She was fair," she continued, as she kept looking at the wall; "but so am I. He got as good a bargain in me as in her." Then she made devious movements, turning and returning, muttering to herself, but so thickly that I only caught words much disjointed—"Remorse!—yes, yes!—no, no!—not till I am to be hanged; but that cannot be; no one saw me. Say nothing, nothing!—mix the draught—away to bed. 'Tis late, late! and I am cold."
"'She came to bed, Francis, cold and shivering. My mind began to regain some form of thinking, after having been tossed about by the effect of her horrible monologue, or rather part of a dialogue. The conviction was instant, unavoidable, and certain. I never thought of awakening her to question her, but lay distant from her as from a reptile. I slept none. In the morning she turned to kiss me. I drew back my head in horror, and saw that she too was horrified at my manner. I bade her begone for a murderer, and, committed thus by my agony, told her she had confessed the whole story in a fit of somnambulism. Then she flew from me, crying she was innocent, tearing her hair in good acting—and there she walks by the passages under the sting of her guilt. Oh! she dare not face me, even were I to allow a meeting, which I wont. Francis, I am convinced.'
"My master," continued Francis, addressing me as I lay listening and thinking of the old brochure, "was always moody, as I have said—ay, and crotchety; no one had any power to drive from him a settled opinion or resolution. After I had listened to him I said—
"'Master, permit me, your poor servant, to say that this is not evidence on which I would beat a dog.'
"'I am convinced,' he replied sternly and unkindly, and he moved his hand as a sign that I should leave him. I retreated, grieved to the heart, for I knew master's nature. When I got to the top of the stair, I saw my lady beckoning me from the door of the library. I went to her.
"'Francis,' she said, as she shut the door, 'what is this? Has my husband told you anything?'
"'All,' I replied. 'He has recounted to me some strange words uttered by you in your sleep, from which he infers that you poisoned my lady Lillah.'
"'Repeat them—repeat them,' she said hurriedly.
"I did so, and when I mentioned the name Grierson, she seemed to brighten a little. O how she hung upon my words!
"'Francis,' she said, 'I may be saved. You may help me. Some nights ago I was occupied in reading the history of Jane Grierson—a little pamphlet which you will find in the drawer of the escritoire, in the dressing-room. There is the key. That story is the story I had recounted in my sleep. Go get the book, and bring it to me. That will save me, and nothing but that will save me.'
"'God be praised,' I ejaculated, and then hurried with all speed to get the book. I searched the escritoire; it was not there. I examined other drawers with no better success. At length I returned to my lady, and reported my failure. Without saying a word she hurried away from me, rushed along the lobby, and entered the parlour opening into the dressing-room. Not doubting her word, and agitated by the hope of all being thus satisfactorily explained when the book should be got, I flew to my master's room through the door from the passage.
"'It is all explainable,' I cried, as I entered.
"'Indeed!' answered Mr. Bernard satirically.
"'My lady was some nights ago reading the story of Jane Grierson,' said I, 'and her sleep-walking conversation was only a repetition of the story.'
"'Grierson, Grierson!' cried my master, as he rose frantically, and placed his hand on his forehead. 'Yes, yes! she mentioned the word. I have never thought of that. Yes! yes! show me that book, and I shall be satisfied.'
"I ran immediately to the door leading to the dressing-room, where I heard my lady searching. Master had shut it. He opened it for me by the key which he held in his hand, and locked it as I passed out. It seemed he wanted no interview till the book should be got. Amelia was there, searching and searching, trembling and sighing.
"'What means this?' she ejaculated, as she proceeded—then paused. 'I must have placed it in the trunk, from whence I took it;' and she rushed away to the room where the trunks lay, which she had brought with her to Redcleugh.
"'Twas all in vain. That book could not be got, sir. That book was never found. No copy of it could be procured. The loss of that book was the ruin of the house of Redcleugh."
"There it is," said I, holding up the tattered brochure to the wondering eyes of the old butler.
"Gracious Heaven!" cried the old man. "Yet not gracious—too late, too late!" and he staggered, like one who is drunk. "Mr. Bernard is dead."
"And Amelia is mad," said I, sorrowfully.
"Yes, mad," said he, as he still gazed on the brochure, and turned it over and over with trembling hands.
"But how did you come to get this," he inquired.
I told him, and he rose and hastened to the escritoire to examine it, and satisfy himself of the truth of my statement.
"When that book could not be found, sir," he resumed when he came back, "my master put his resolution into effect. He placed his children with Mr. Gordon, one of his trustees, executed a settlement, and went to the East. My lady Amelia never saw him from that morning, but he left word with me, that if the pamphlet was found in the house, he should be made acquainted with it through his trustee, Mr. Gordon. But, ah! sir, that never happened, in God's mysterious providence; and now my poor Lady Amelia could receive no advantage from this proof of her innocence. I have heard from her own lips, before her reason gave way, that she was the grand-daughter of Jane Grierson and Mr. Temple, and that was the reason why she came to have this little book. The story haunted her, yet she read it; while, at the same time, she concealed her possession of it, and her connection with the parties."
Francis now left me, and if I had little inclination to sleep before, I had less now. All the strange incidents of the story seemed to revolve round myself; though my part in it seemed merely the result of chance, I appeared to myself somehow as a directly-appointed agent for working out some design of Providence. Yet what I was required to do I did not know. I cogitated and recogitated, and came to no conclusion as to how I should act; only I saw no great benefit in the meantime in endeavouring to make any use of the pamphlet for the purpose of recovering the aberrant reason of the poor lady. At length I fell asleep, and next morning awoke to the strange recollections of what had occurred so shortly before. I saw Amelia again; she was depressed and moody; the fiend within her was dormant, but its weight pressed on the issues of thought, and her vacant stare told unutterable woe.
I left Redcleugh without much hope, intending to pay another visit shortly afterwards. About three or four days after reaching home, a letter came to me from Francis, inclosing one from Mr. Gordon, the latter of which contained the intelligence that there had been some mistake as to the report of Mr. Bernard's death. A gentleman of the same name had died at Aleppo, but the master of Redcleugh was still alive. A gleam of the sunshine of hope darted through my mind. The dark images of the story were illumined—even the figure of that poor lady enshrined in the gloom of sorrow became bright with lustrous, meaning, intelligent eyes. Within an hour I had a letter posted for Mr. Gordon, informing him of the finding of the pamphlet, and requesting him to send for Mr. Bernard by an express messenger.
In the meanwhile I visited Mrs. Bernard regularly, though the distance was much beyond my usual journeys. Some parts of the intelligence were broken to her through the medium of Francis, but without any marked result, if exacerbations were not more frequent, ending in deeper depression; as if a wild hope had risen and died away in the absence of anything visible or tangible to justify it to the erring but suspicious judgment of the victim of despair. Other preparations were made; the old servants recalled; and Francis was glorying in the prospect of a restoration of the old ways, if not the very continuation of that broken happiness of which he was so full. At length Mr. Bernard arrived, along with Caleb and Mira. Mr. Gordon was along with them, and I was sent for. We were all assembled without Mrs. Bernard being aware of our presence in the house. I counselled caution, and Mira was introduced to the mother alone; but the child retreated under the fear of a scream which might betoken either joy or despair; nor did her mother ask for her again—a strange circumstance, and not of good omen; but we behoved to persevere, and Mr. Bernard himself, accompanied by Mr. Gordon and me, presented ourselves before her. Was there ever a meeting under such circumstances? The husband clasped the unconscious wife to his bosom. I stood to watch the effect of an act which I considered precipitate, if not imprudent. The moment she felt herself in the arms of her husband she struggled to release herself, uttered the loudest scream I ever heard from her, and fell in a swoon upon the floor. That swoon gave me hopes, for in confirmed madness we do not often find that moral causes working on the mind show any power over the body. When she recovered, and was placed in a chair, she panted for breath, like one choking; and waving her hands and grasping convulsively the clothes of those next to her, seemed as if she were testing the reality of all these appearances, as things new and wonderful and incredible. I then held out to her the pamphlet, in all its tattered condition. The effect was extraordinary. She clutched it with such an intensity of grasp that she crumpled it all up, and then tried with trembling hands to undo the crushed leaves, some of which fell at her feet. I watched the rise of the natural expression of wonder struggling through the look of insanity; but I could discover no joy, only something like fear. I still augured favourably. She was laid upon her bed, and in about an hour afterwards fell into a troubled sleep. A day passed, yet amid my hopes I could see nothing on which I could absolutely rely as an undoubted sign of a favourable change, till on the evening of the second day, when she burst into a flood of tears. I had Mr. Bernard at her side at the end of this paroxysm, and in a very short time she was hanging upon his neck, sobbing like a child who is reconciled to its mother.
Under a date some six months after these indications of Amelia's convalescence, I find a note in my diary, "Dined at Redcleugh with Mr. and Mrs. Bernard; the invalid restored, and again the object of her husband's affection; the butler once more the pride of his major-domoship; the old Burgundy produced and declared better than ever; heard that musical laugh which once charmed Mr. Bernard from the depth of his sorrow, as it now mingled, like a fluid, with the glory of a summer sun shining through the green blinds, and spread joy throughout the old house of Redcleugh."
THE ROTHESAY FISHERMAN.
When I was a boy, I used to pass the summer vacation in the Isle of Bute, where my father had a small cottage, for the convenience of sea-bathing. I enjoyed my sea-side visits greatly, for I was passionately fond of boating and fishing and, before I was sixteen, had become a fearless and excellent swimmer. From morning till night, I was rambling about the beach, or either sailing upon or swimming in the beautiful Frith. I was a prime favourite among the fishermen, with most of whom I was on familiar terms, and knew them all by name. Among their number was one man who particularly attracted my attention, and excited my curiosity. He was civil and obliging, though distant and reserved in his manners, with a shade of habitual melancholy on his countenance, which awakened my sympathy, at the same time that his "bearing," which was much above his station, commanded my respect. He appeared to be about sixty years of age; particularly prepossessing in his appearance; and his language and demeanour would have done honour to any rank of society. I felt involuntarily attracted towards him, and took every opportunity of showing my wish to please and become better acquainted with him; but in vain. He seemed gratified by my attentions; but I made no nearer approach to his confidence. He went, among his companions, by the name of "Gentleman Douglas;" but they appeared to be as ignorant of the particulars of his history as myself. All they knew of him was, that he had come among them a perfect stranger, some years before, no one knew from whence; that he seemed to have some means of support independent of his boat; and that he was melancholy, silent, and reserved—as much as possible avoiding all communication with his neighbours. These particulars only served to whet my boyish curiosity, and I determined to leave no means untried to penetrate to the bottom of Douglas' mystery. Let me do myself justice, however: my eagerness to know his history proceeded from an earnest desire to soothe his sorrow, whatever it might be, and to benefit him in any way in my power. Day after day I used to stroll down to the beach, when he was preparing to get his boat under way, and volunteer to pull an oar on board. At first he seemed annoyed by my officiousness; and, though he always behaved with civility, showed, by his impatient manner, that he would rather dispense with my company; but the constant dripping of water will wear away a stone, and hard indeed must be the heart that will not be softened by unremitting kindness. My persevering wish to please him gradually produced the desired effect—he was pleased, and evinced it by his increasing cordiality of manner, and by the greater interest he seemed to take in all my movements. In a short time we became inseparables, and his boat hardly ever left the shore without me. My father was not at all adverse to my intimacy with Douglas; he knew him to be a sober, industrious man, and one who bore an irreproachable moral character; and as he was anxious that I should strengthen my constitution as much as possible in the sea-breeze, he thought I could not roam about under safer or less objectionable protection. On a further acquaintance with Douglas, I found him a most agreeable companion; for, when his reserve wore off, his conversation was amusing and instructive; and he had tales to tell of foreign lands and of distant seas, which he described with that minuteness and closeness which only a personal acquaintance with them could have produced. Often, in the course of his narration, his eye would brighten and his cheek glow with an emotion foreign to his usual calm and melancholy manner; and then he would suddenly stop, as if some sound he had uttered had awakened dark memories of the past, and the gloom clouded his brow again, his voice trembled, and his cheek grew pale. These sudden transitions alarmed and surprised me; my suspicions were excited, and I began to imagine that the man must have been guilty of some unknown and dreadful crime, and that conscience was at such times busy within him. Douglas must have observed my changing manner; but it made little alteration in his demeanour towards myself.
"What is the matter, Douglas?" said I, one day, when I observed him start and turn pale at some casual observation of mine.
"Do not indulge a vain and idle curiosity, Master Charles, at the expense of another's feelings," replied he, gravely and mournfully, "nor endeavour to rake up the ashes of the past. The heart knows its own bitterness: long may yours be a stranger to sorrow! I have observed, with pain, that you, as others have done, begin to look upon me with suspicion. Be satisfied with the assurance, that I have no crimes needing concealment, to reproach myself with; and the sorrows of age should be sacred in the eyes of youth."
I was humbled by the old man's reproof, and hastened to express my concern for having hurt his feelings.
"Enough said, enough said, Mr. Charles," said he; "curiosity is natural at your age, and I am not surprised at your wishing, like some of your elders, to learn the cause of the melancholy which hangs over me like a cloud darkening the path of life, and embittering all its pleasures. At some future time I will tell you the reason why you see me what I am; but I cannot now—the very thought of it unmans me."
Time wore on; every year I returned to the sea-side during the summer, and was always welcomed with unaffected cordiality by my old ally, Douglas. I was now a strapping youth of nineteen, tall and powerful of my age—thanks to the bracing sea-air and constant exercise. One day Douglas told me he was going over to Largs, and asked if I would accompany him.
"With all my heart," said I; and in ten minutes we were standing across the Frith with a fine steady breeze. We were close over to the Ayrshire coast, when a sudden puff of wind capsized the boat, and we were both thrown into the water. When I rose to the surface again, after my plunge, I looked around in vain for Douglas, who had disappeared. He had on a heavy pea-jacket, and I was at first afraid the weight and encumbrance of it must have sunk him; but, on second thoughts, I dived under the boat, and found him floundering about beneath the sail, from whence I succeeded with great difficulty in extricating him. He was quite exhausted, and it required all my strength to support him to the gunnel of the boat. After hanging on there some time, to recover breath, we swam together to the beach, which was not far distant. When we landed, he seated himself on a large stone, and remained silent for some time, with his face buried in his hands.
"Douglas," said I, wondering at his long silence, "are you hurt?"
To my great surprise I heard low sobs, and saw the tears trickling between his fingers. Thinking that he was grieved at the loss of his boat, I said—
"Cheer up, man! If the boat be lost, we will manage among us to get another for you."
"'Tisn't the boat, sir, 'tisn't the boat; we can soon raise her again: it is your kindness that has made a fool of me."
He then looked up in my face, and, drying his glistening cheek with one hand, he shook mine long and heartily with the other.
"Mr. Charles, before I met you, I thought I was alone in the world; shunned by most around me as a man of mystery. Because I could not join in their rude sports and boisterous merriment, they attributed my reserve and visible dejection to sinister causes—possibly to some horrible and undiscovered crime." A blush here flitted across my countenance; but Douglas did not remark it. "Young, and warm, and enthusiastic, you sought me out with different feelings; you were attracted towards me by pity, and by a generous desire to relieve my distress. It was not the mere impulse of a moment; your kindness has been constant and unwavering—and now you have crowned all by saving my life. I hardly know whether or not to thank you for what was so worthless to myself; but I do thank you from the bottom of my heart for the friendly and generous feeling which actuated you. You shall know the cause of the sorrow that weighs upon my heart; I would not that one to whom I owe so much should look upon me with the slightest shade of suspicion. I think, when you know my story, you will pity and sympathize with me; but you will judge less harshly, I doubt not, than I do of myself."
"Do not call up unnecessary remembrances, which harrow your feelings, Douglas. That I have often thought there is mystery about you, I will not deny; but only once did the possibility of a cause of guilt flash across my mind. That unworthy suspicion has long past, and I am now heartily ashamed of myself for having harboured it for a moment. But we are forgetting the boat; we must try to get assistance to right her."
We soon fell in with one of the fishermen on the coast, with whose assistance she was speedily righted and baled out; and, after having done what we came for at Largs we returned homewards.
"Meet me to-morrow at ten o'clock, Mr. Charles," said Douglas, as he grasped my hand at parting, "and you shall then hear my story, and judge whether or not I have cause to grieve."
At the appointed hour next morning I hastened to the rendezvous. The fisherman was already there, waiting for me.
"I daresay you are surprised to see me here so soon," said he; "but now that I have determined to make you my confidant, I feel eager to disburden my mind, and to seek relief from my sorrows in the sympathy of one whom I am so proud to call my friend.
"I was not always in the humble station in which you now see me, Mr. Stewart; but, thank Heaven! it was no misconduct of my own that occasioned the change. My father was an English clergyman, whose moderate stipend denied to his family the luxuries of life; but we had reason to acknowledge the truth of the wise man's saying, that 'a dinner of herbs, where love is, is better than more sumptuous fare where that love is not'. We were a united and a happy family, contented with the competence with which Providence had blessed us, and pitying, not envying, those who, endowed with greater wealth, were exposed to greater temptations. Oh! those happy, happy days! It sometimes almost maddens me, Mr. Stewart, to compare myself, as I am now, with what I was then. Every morning I rose with a light and happy heart, exulting in the sunbeam that awakened me with its smile, and blessing, in the gladfulness of youthful gratitude, the gracious Giver of light and life. My heart overflowed with love to all created beings. I could look back without regret, and the future was bright with hope. And now, what am I? A broken-hearted man, but still, after all my sufferings, grateful to the hand which has chastened me. I can picture the whole family grouped on a summer evening, now, Mr. Stewart, as vividly as a sight of yesterday, though fifty years have cast their dark shadows between. My mother, seated beside her work-table under the neat verandah in front of our cottage, encouraging my sisters, with her sweet smile and gentle voice, in the working of their first sampler; my father, seated with his book, under the shade of his favourite laburnum tree; while my brother and I were trundling our hoops round the garden, shouting with boyish glee; and my little fair-haired cousin, Julia, tottering along with her little hands extended, to catch the butterfly that tempted her on from flower to flower. My brother Henry was two years younger than myself, and was at the time I speak of a remarkably handsome, active boy, of ten years of age—full of fun and mischief, unsteady and volatile. My father found considerable difficulty in confining Henry's attention to his studies; for, though uncommonly quick and intelligent, he wanted patience and application. He could not bear the drudgery of poring over musty books. He used to say to me—'How I should like to be an officer, a gallant naval officer, to lead on my men through fire and smoke to victory!' And then the little fellow would wave his hand, while the colour flushed his cheeks, and shout—'Come on! come on!' He had, somehow or other, got possession of an old naval chronicle; and from that moment his whole thoughts were of ships and battles, and his principal amusement was to launch little fleets of ships upon the pond at the bottom of the garden. My father, though mild and indulgent in other matters, was a strict disciplinarian in education; and often did I save Henry from punishment by helping him with his exercises and other lessons. Dearly did I love my gallant, high-spirited little brother; and he looked up to me with equal fondness.
"I will not weary you with details, but at once jump over the next twelve years of my life. The scene was now greatly changed at the parsonage. Death had been busy among its inmates; a contagious disorder had carried off my mother and sisters, and my poor father was left alone in his old age—not alone, for Julia was still with him. I forgot to say before, that she was the orphan daughter of his elder brother. Julia, at sixteen, was beautiful. I will not attempt to describe her, although every feature, every expression of her lovely countenance, is vividly pictured in my heart. She was its light, its pride, its hope. Alas! alas! she had grown up like a sweet flower beside me, and, from her infancy, had clung to me with a sister's confidence, and more than a sister's affection. Was it wonderful that I loved her? Yes, I loved her fondly and devotedly; and I soon had the bliss of knowing that my affection was returned. I had been for some time at college, studying for the church, when a distant relation died, and left me a comfortable competency. My father now consented with pleasure to my union with Julia; and a distant day was fixed for the marriage, to enable my brother Henry to be present. He had been abroad for some time in the merchant service, and his constant employment had prevented his visiting home for many years; but he had written to say that he expected now to have a long holiday with us. At length he returned, and great was my joy at meeting my beloved brother once more. He was a fine, handsome, manly-looking fellow—frank and boisterous in his manner, kind and generous in his disposition, but the slave of passion and impulse. In a week after his return, he became dull and reserved, and every one remarked the extraordinary change that had come over him. My father and I both thought that our quiet and monotonous life wearied and disgusted him, and that he longed for the more bustling scenes to which he had been accustomed. "Come, Harry!" said I to him one day, "cheer up, my boy! we shall be merry enough soon: you must lay in a fresh stock of spirits; Julia will quarrel with you if you show such a melancholy phiz at our wedding." He turned from me with impatience, and, rushing out into the garden, I saw no more of him that day. I was hurt and surprised by his manner, and hastened to express my annoyance to Julia. She received me with less than her usual warmth, blushed when I talked of my brother, and soon left me on some trifling pretext. My father had gone to visit a neighbouring clergyman, at whose house he was taken suddenly and alarmingly ill. I hastened to his bedside, and found him in such a precarious state, that I determined upon remaining near him. I therefore despatched a messenger to Julia, informing her of my intention, and intimating that it would be necessary to postpone our marriage, which was to have taken place in the course of a week, until my father's recovery. In answer to my letter, I received a short and hurried reply, merely acquiescing in the propriety of my movements, and without any expression of regret at my lengthened absence. Surprised at the infrequency and too apparent indifference of Julia's answers to the long and impassioned letters which I almost daily wrote to her, alarmed at the long interval which had elapsed since I last heard from her, and fearing that illness might have occasioned her silence, I left my father, who was rapidly recovering, and hastened home. When I arrived at the parsonage, I walked into the drawing-room; but as neither Julia nor my brother was there, I concluded they were out walking, and, taking a book, I sat down, impatiently waiting their return. Some time having elapsed, however, without their making their appearance, I rang the bell; and our aged servant, on entering, started at seeing me there.