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Book of Scottish Story
Mary Wilson


‘On her white arm down sunk her head,
She shivered, sighed, and died.’
Mallet.

Joseph Wilson was a farmer in the parish of D--. He possessed enough of the goods of this world to make him be respected by all his neighbours, and esteemed by them as the most careful, well-doing man in the parish. Joseph knew well enough the value of his riches; but still the jewel which was nearest and dearest to his heart was his only daughter, the beautiful and innocent Mary Wilson. He loved her—and his love was not greater than that of Marjory, his wife—more than all he possessed; and when rallied by his neighbours on the depth of his purse, he was wont to say, that the brightest guinea he adored was the face of his own sweet Mary. While a child she was indulged; and the smiles of her pretty round face, and her caresses and kisses, gained all her little wants from her doting parents. While the daughters of other farmers assisted in household management, she was never required to soil her fingers, but would skip and dance before her father over the fields and the meadows, and sport as the little lamb round her parent. As she advanced from childhood, her days were clad in the same fair livery of joy. She danced and she toyed, and though no longer dandled and prattling on the knees of her parents, she made them the confidants of all her light amusements and secrets, and she sang to them all the legendary ballads which she had picked up, and their hearts were still gladdened in the little offspring of their wedlock.

From a child to the age of fifteen, she had attended the parish school along with all the boys and girls, both high and low. Here she was a general favourite, and the youths would crowd to attend Mary Wilson home, because she had the prettiest little lips, and the kindliest laugh, of any girl in the school; and happy was he, and proud of himself, who obtained her hand to dance at the Candlemas ball. The father and mother saw no harm in the adulations paid to their daughter, for they did not equal their own; and the good old schoolmaster loved to see Mary the favourite of all his youths, because she was a good scholar and the best singer in the school and in the church, and on that account the greatest favourite with himself When he raised the tune on the Sabbath to the praise of the Lord, he would turn in his desk to the seat of Mary Wilson for her accompaniment, and, when her sweet voice was once heard through the church, then would the whole congregation join, and every young man emulate himself to gain the approbation of the fair and goodly singer. To those who are in the practice of attending a country parish church, I need not mention in how high estimation the best female singer is held amongst all the young men of the country side.

At the age of fifteen she was removed to a boarding-school in town. Here she remained two years, and though she perfected herself in accomplishments, and though many young men dangled after her, yet her heart, albeit naturally merry, was sensitive; and vapid appeared to her the revel in the midnight ball compared to the dance on the heaven-canopied lawn, when heart panted with heart, and every spirit caught the existing flame of pleasure ; and frigid and disagreeable seemed to her the lips from whom politeness extorted studied words, compared to the lips of those who spoke the warm and momentary feelings of the mind. She returned to the place of her youth, and sought again for mirth and pleasure amongst her old companions; but she was changed both in person and in mind. She was no longer the light airy girl, but she was now the woman glowing in all the richness and luxuriance of female beauty. She could not now associate with the young men, and be their umpire in all their disputes and contentions, as in the days of her youth; nor could she find that delight in the company of her female companions which she did ere her departure. Mary was a flower,-
A violet by a messy stone,
Half hid from human eyes,
that, left undisturbed on the wild, would have flourished the loveliest of her comrades, but once transplanted for a little time into the garden, she took not so well when removed again to her native soil. Though she danced, and though she sang, as she was wont, still part of that which she had seen in town mingled itself with that which she enjoyed in the country; the customs of a populous city were not to be easily banished from her, and she could not be so happy as formerly. To her father and her mother she was the same adored object; both rejoiced in her beauty, and while they would at times , talk of who might be her husband, they would soon chase away the idea as that of a robber that would deprive them of their all.

A little after Mary’s return to her father’s, Charles Morley returned likewise from the University. He was the son of the laird, but he had been at the parish school with the young men, and once been their constant companion. He hunted for birds’ nests with them, he had fished with them, he had often broken into his father’s garden with them, and Morley was as one of themselves. He had ever been attentive to Mary Wilson ; and she, if the umpire of a race or a wrestle, was always happy when she could adjudge the honour of victory to Charlie Morley, because he would at times snatch a kiss from her, and would always take her hand and assist her when wading through the burns. He had completed his education at the University, and, while he had acquired knowledge, he had lost the command of himself. Long did he withstand the temptations laid in his way by more wicked companions, and long did he endeavour to retain the principles his old master had instilled into him; but in vain: while the sage was discoursing on the nobleness of man’s nature, and the blessings of wisdom, and while he acquiesced in all the learned man said, Charles Morley had become one of the most profligate, young men in the college.

When he returned to the country, he often met Mary Wilson, both at her father’s and at the houses of the other tenants. Their meetings became frequent, and though they never made assignations, yet Charles Morley was sure to meet with Mary Wilson in her walks. She saw no harm in meeting with her old school companion, but he had his schemes laid; he saw her leaning on him in all her maiden fondness; he knew human nature, and he knew that if he attempted to wrong her in their early meetings, he would discover his baseness and be spurned. He suffered therefore her affection to grow upon her, and, when it had fully ripened, he gave her his feigned love, and received hers, as the offerings of a devotee to his God, in return. For some time she was almost happy, and though she knew her situation must soon be known, she was certain it would not be so till she was the wife of Charles Morley-for so he had promised; and could she doubt him? Time, however, flew on, and Mary becoming discontented and frightened, Morley, in order to draw her from a place where discovery would have been ruin to himself, proposed flight. When a woman has once gone astray, the man who has ruined her does not require great efforts to persuade her to anything. She is his, body and soul. Mary one night bade adieu to the house of her father, and fled with her paramour to an obscure lodging in the capital.

Sad was the morning which arose to her parents on the discovery of her departure, and more especially the cause of it, which neighbours were not slow in surmising and hinting. Her mother wept in all the bitterness of woe, but her tears could not express the sorrow of her heart. The father was louder in his grief; he wept and raved by turns. Now he grieved for her helplessness, and prayed to God to grant her mercy; then he cursed the hour in which she was born, and called down curses on him who had ruined the hope of his days. In a little time their violent grief had subsided ; the fugitives could not be traced, and neither Joseph nor his wife suffered that name which was nearest to their hearts to pass their lips. But when Marjory would see the work-basket of her daughter, she would throw herself on her bed and weep; and Joseph, when anything came in his way that strongly associated the idea of his Mary, would seize his hat, rush from the house, and give utterance to a grief which he would fain conceal from an already heart-broken wife.

It was about five mouths after the departure of Mary, when Marjory, hearing one day a gentle tap at the door, went to open it. It was Mary who knocked; but oh! how changed from her who once was the boast of the country side ! She was pale and emaciated, her eye had lost its lustre, and she seemed to be worse than the shadow of her former loveliness. Her dress was ragged and torn, and in her arms she bore a child—the ill-fated offspring of her illicit amour. Her mother held the door for some minutes, while she surveyed with melancholy eyes the woe-worn condition of her daughter. "Mary,” she said, and her manner was composed —"Mary, you did not need formerly to knock at the door of your father’s house." Mary stepped over the threshold, and staggering, rather than walking, forward into the kitchen, threw herself on the dais. "Mary," said her mother again, "where have you been? Are you a married woman? Better be the wife of the poorest man than—— .” Here her daughter buried her face in the bosom of her child, and sobbed, aloud. "Mary,” again said her mother, "I reproach you not. God will grant you His forgiveness, as I do mine; I feel I cannot live long after this stroke, and we must all meet with trials on this side the grave; but Mary, oh, my darling Mary," and she threw her arms around her daughter’s neck and kissed her, "your father ! how will you bear the look of your father?" Her words were scarce finished when Joseph entered. He laid his hat on the table, he shaded back his gray hairs, and clasped his hands, and, from his hard-knitted brows, he seemed about to pray the vengeance of God on her who had so dishonoured his old age. He looked at his daughter; her eyes were on him, and her once lovely arm was extended as if to avoid the threatened curse ; his brows relaxed, he unclasped his hands, and placing them on his face, wept aloud. She laid her child on the seat, she was at his feet on her knees, and her arms grasped him by the waist. He felt her, he placed one hand in hers, and raised the other as he said, “May God forgive thee, my daughter! Ah, Mary, Mary, thou art still my offspring, though thou art a defiled vessel in the eyes of God and man!"

On the second Sunday after her return to her father’s, she prepared to attend her purification in the kirk. She had gone through all preliminary forms, and was now once more to take her seat in the house of God. She went muffled up and attended by her father and mother, and was not recognised. During the singing of the first and second psalms she was silent ; but at the third, her father desired her to sing to the praise of that God who had brought her back as a lost sheep into His fold. In the second line she joined the tune; but weakly and feebly compared to that voice which used to lead the whole kirk. It was, however, recognised; there was a more than momentary stop while all eyes were turned towards her; and her old master, turning towards the seat of his old favourite, strove, while the big tears rolled down his cheeks, and his voice faltered, to bear her through the tune. The minister again rose to prayer: he stretched his hands to heaven, and prayed for all mankind; he prayed for the sinner that had gone astray, and that the Father of mercies would have compassion on the wretched, and again take her into his bosom. There was not a dry eye in the kirk. Humanity for once prevailed, and human selfishness forgot itself in the woes of a fellow-mortal. She, for whom they were supplicating, stood with her hands firmly clasped, her eyes closed, and her head bowed to the earth; and though her father and mother sobbed and wept, she moved not, but, when service was over, she walked with a firm step, and uncovered face and head, through all the parishioners, to her father’s dwelling. She laid herself down on her bed, and in three weeks the grave yawned and closed on the unfortunate Mary Wilson.

A few weeks ago, I made it in my way to pass through D——. Many revolutions of a tropical sun had passed over my head since I had left my native land, and, on my return, I was anxious to visit that spot where I passed many of my happiest days, even though I knew that all my relatives were long since in the cold grave. As I turned round the hill, the well-known cottage of Joseph Wilson came in view, and the story of his daughter dashed vividly on my mind. I approached a countryman, who was standing with his plough and horses at the end of a furrow, wiping the sweat from his brow, and inquired, if Joseph Wilson was still living.

"Na," replied he, "nor ane o’ his kith or kindred. The poor wean that suckled frae an unfortunate breast died soon after his mother, like a young shoot or sapling that has been rashly cut down. Then Marjory soon followed, and Joseph became a heart-broken man; a’thing gaed to wreck, and he died on the parish. There are sad ups and downs in life, and nae the lightest thing to disturb our balance is the waywardness of a child.”

"Poor Mary Wilson!" said I. She became as visible to my mind’s eye as when I saw her winding in the mazes of a dance in all her maiden beauty and innocence; and the lines of my favourite poet came to my lips :—

‘When lovely woman stoops to folly,
And finds, too late, that men betray,
What charms can soothe her melancholy?
What art can wash her guilt away?
The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from every eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom, is—to die.

"And what has become of the laird?” said I, looking to the well-known mansion.

"The old laird is dead, and the young one, that was once expected to be laird, lies rotting with many carcases in a foreign trench, He broke his father’s heart, spent his substance, and died a common soldier. The comforting dew of heaven seldom falls on him who disregards its commands: seldom does the friendly hands of woman smooth the dying bed of the seducer ; and still more rarely does the insulter of a parent’s gray hairs sleep in the same grave wi’ him. Ye canna lament Mary Wilson mair than I do."

"Do you possess her father’s land ?” said I.

"Ay do I," replied the rustic,—apparently much moved; "and it may be that I would hae ploughed them mair pleasantly, and whistled mair cheerfully to my horses, had Mary shared it with a plain man, as became her station; but we maunna repine."

I had no wish to proceed farther; and in my ride back I enjoyed one of those deep, melancholy musings, far more congenial to my mind than the most ecstatic dreams of the most ambitious men. -Aberdeen Censor.


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