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Book of Scottish Story
The Twin Sisters


BY ALEXANDER BALFOUR.

“One of these men is genius to the other;
And so, of these which is the natural man,
And which the spirit? Who decyphers them?” - Shakespeare

Emma and Emily Graham were twin daughters of a respectable farmer and cattle-dealer in Perthshire.The girls bore such a striking resemblance to each other, that their mother found it necessary to clothe them in different colours, as the only method by which they could be distinguished. As they grew up, their similarity became, if possible, more perfect; the colour of their eyes and hair had no shade of difference; and, indeed, every feature of their faces, their form and stature, were so exactly alike, that the same distinction of different dresses continued necessary. They had a brother, Edward, about fifteen months younger, who bore as great a likeness to both as they did to each other. When the girls arrived at nine or ten years of age, they gave promise of being rather above the ordinary stature of their sex, with a very considerable share of personal beauty. But it was only in externals that the resemblance was complete; for, although both had excellent dispositions, with a large share of good nature, their minds were in most respects dissimilar.

Emma was sedate and modest, even to bashfulness ; while Emily was so free and lively, that many thought her forward, and her lightheartedness akin to levity. Edward’s mind resembled that of his younger sister as closely as his personal appearance. She was all mirth and frolic, and, by changing clothes with her sister, amused, perplexed, and sometimes fretted her parents; in all which Edward delighted to bear a part. At school there was an ample field for these sportive tricks; and the teacher himself was often sadly teased by their playful metamorphoses.

When the sisters completed their seventeenth year, they had more the appearance of grown women than is common at that age; and their resemblance still continued perfect. Their voices, although slightly masculine, were pleasant and musical; and both had the same tone and sound, pitched to the same key. The dispositions which they had exhibited in childhood still seemed to “grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength.” In one thing they, however, agreed, which was, that whenever they appeared in public, they dressed perfectly alike, and were frequently amused and delighted with the mistakes produced by the uniformity. To distinguish their clothes, every article belonging to Emma was marked Em. G., and those of Emily with E. G. only.

As Edward grew up, his striking likeness to his sisters continued; even their difference of voice could be distinguished only by a fine and delicate ear; and with this close resemblance he was so highly pleased, that he used every means by which it could be preserved. To add to the perplexity of their friends, Emma would assume more than her usual vivacity, while Emily would put herself under some restraint; although the one was apt to become suddenly grave, and the other relax into lightheartedness. But they were now divided; for Emma went to reside with an aunt, at fifty miles distance, and there she continued for a considerable time.

Both the girls had been courted occasionally by the young men of their acquaintance; but their hearts had never felt a reciprocal passion. There was, in particular, an old widower, Francis Meldrum, who had become enamoured of Emily; and, as he was rich, her parents anxiously wished to promote the match. But their daughter shrunk from it with the most decided aversion: no repulse, however, could release her from the importunity of his addresses, as he was countenanced and encouraged by her parents.

During the summer, their father was in the practice of going into England with a drove of cattle, sometimes not returning till the approach of harvest. He now departed on his usual excursion; and, soon after, the mother was called away to visit her sick grandmother, from whom the family had considerable expectations. The farm and house were thus left under the charge of Edward and Emily, both willing to do their duty, but both thoughtless, and delighting in frolic; which, now that they were relieved from the surveillance and remonstrances of the sedate Emma, they had a better opportunity of indulging.

There was a fair in Perth, only a few miles distant, and Emily requested her brother to accompany her thither, that they might have at least one day of pleasure. Her proposal was most readily acceded to by Edward; and they departed together. A company of military, part of the regiment, were quartered in Perth, under the command of Captain Munro, who had received orders to recruit during his stay. The fair was a good opportunity for that purpose, and the Captain, with his troop, paraded the streets in their best array. From a window in the inn where they were dining, Edward and his sister saw them pass along the street. Emily had never known what it was to love; but she had a susceptible heart. Her hour was now come, and her lively fancy was enraptured with the fine, martial appearance of the gallant Captain. Little accustomed to reflection, she fell in love at first sight; and unpractised in disguising her feelings, although she did not express her thoughts to her brother, she was at little pains to conceal the impression made on her heart. This he soon perceived, and began to rally her on the subject, when she frankly acknowledged that she thought the officer the most handsome looking man she had ever seen, expressing an anxious wish to know his rank and name. That information was easily obtained by Edward in a casual conversation with the waiter, who said he was from the same quarter with Captain Munro, who was the son and heir of a landed gentleman in Aberdeenshire, was unmarried, and a great favourite with the ladies in town. When the couple reached home, Emily’s head and heart both full of the handsome Captain, they had a message from her mother, intimating that the old woman was dying, and that she could not return till she saw the result. There was also a letter from their father, requesting Edward to follow him into England with a supply of cattle, as speedily as possible.

Captain Munro had occupied Emily’s sleeping and waking thoughts ; and she began to wish that an opportunity might occur for her becoming acquainted with him. With her characteristic love of frolic, she formed a plan which promised to facilitate her wishes ; and circumstances seemed favourable for its execution, but it required the assistance of her brother for carrying it into effect. It was communicated to Edward; and he, equally rash and imprudent as herself, was prevailed upon to play his part, which was no less than to enlist himself with Captain Munro as a recruit, and trust to his sister relieving him, according to a scheme pointed out by her, and which appeared feasible to Edward. In compliance with the plan which they had concerted, Edward, with a servant, left the farm for the cattle. Having put them on the way, and arranged to rejoin the servant, he rode into Perth, and enlisted with the Captain, receiving a shilling of earnest. Promising to come back next morning to receive his bounty, and be attested, Edward mounted his horse, and pushed forward to England, leaving Emily to settle the business as best she could.

The day when he had promised to return passed away without any appearance of the recruit. Being a fine-looking fellow, the officer was reluctant to lose him; therefore, next morning, he despatched a serjeant, with a party to inquire after him. On their arrival at the farm, they found only Emily and the servants. The serjeant had seen Edward when he enlisted, and now believed that he saw, in Emily, the same person in disguise; in consequence of which he threatened to carry her before his commanding officer; but, preserving her good humour, she held his threats in defiance, and, for his own sake, requested him to take care what he did. Some of the party had remained in the kitchen, and there learned from the servants, that Emily sometimes assumed her brother’s dress; and, they had no doubt, had impersonated her brother, as a joke on the Captain. Emily now regaled the party with hospitable cheer, and, dismissing them in excellent humour, requested the serjeant to make her compliments to Captain Munro, trusting that he would take better care of his next recruit. The serjeant imparted all this to his superior, together with what the soldiers had heard in the kitchen, from which the officer was persuaded, that either himself or the serjeant had been completely hoaxed, and, determined to investigate the matter fully, both in discharge of his duty, and for the gratification of his curiosity, which had been highly excited, he next morning visited the farm, intending to judge for himself. This was just what Emily wished and expected. She had therefore taken care to inform herself in a short interview with her brother, of almost every circumstance which had passed between him and the Captain, the relation of which, she trusted, would convince him of her being the recruit. The moment Captain Munro looked at her, he was convinced of her being the identical person he had enlisted, although he still had doubts about her sex; while, at the same time, he felt that he had never seen one of his own with features so fine and delicate. Although Captain Munro was in every respect a gentleman, yet the extraordinary circumstances which had produced this interview, warranted a freedom of manner which, in other cases, he could not have employed, where he was so much a stranger. He therefore now informed Emily that he was fully convinced of her being the person who had enlisted with him, and also quite satisfied that she now appeared in the habit which belonged to her sex; still, he presumed he had some right to inquire her motive for a step so uncommon, and which she appeared so early to relinquish.

This question, although she had anticipated it, brought deep blushes into Emily’s face; and her heart palpitated as she replied, that, although she now regretted having adopted a measure so incompatible with female delicacy, she felt it a duty which she owed to herself to inform him of her inducement, lest it might be attributed to something still more unbecoming. She then went on to state that she had, for a long time past been persecuted with the odious addresses of a widower, old enough to be her father, and whom her parents wished her to marry because he was rich; but, although he had been her equal in age, their dispositions were so opposite, that she must have despised him, for he was a miserly, stingy, jealous, and contemptible wretch; and she had availed herself of the absence of her parents to adopt a measure which, she was sure, would, on its coming to his knowledge, have the effect of relieving her from his offensive importunities ; and, although she now saw the imprudent folly she had committed, her regret would be diminished, if it produced the consequences she so anxiously wished.

End of Part One


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