Jolly old Simon Kirkton!
thou art the very high-priest of Hymen. There is something softly
persuasive to matrimony in thy contented, comfortable appearance ; and
thy house,—why, though it is situated in the farthest part of
Inverness-shire, it is as fertile in connubial joys as if it were placed
upon Gretna Green. Single blessedness is a term unknown in thy
vocabulary; heaven itself would be a miserable place for thee, for there
is neither marrying nor giving in marriage !
Half the county was invited to a grand dinner and ball at Simon’s house
, in January 1812. All the young ladies had looked forward to it in
joyous anticipation and hope, and all the young gentlemen, with
considerable expectation—and fear. Everything was to be on the greatest
scale: the dinner in the ancient hall, with the two family pipers
discoursing sweet music between the courses, and the ball in the
splendid new drawing-room, with a capital band from the county town. The
Duke was to be there with all the nobility, rank, and fashion of the
district; and, in short, such a splendid entertainment had never been
given at Strath Lugas in the memory of man. The editor of the county
paper had a description of it in type a month before, and the milliners
far and near never said their prayers without a supplication for the
health of Mr Kirkton. All this time that worthy gentleman was not idle.
The drawing-room was dismantled of its furniture, and the floors
industriously chalked over with innumerable groups of flowers. The
larder was stocked as if for a siege ; the domestics drilled into a
knowledge of their duties ; and every preparation completed in the most
irreproachable style. I question whether Gunter ever dreamt of such a
supper as was laid out in the dining-room: venison in all its forms, and
dish of every kind. It would have victualled a seventy-four to China.
The day came at last,—a fine, sharp, clear day, as ever gave a bluish
tinge to the countenance, or brought tears to "beauty’s eye." There had
been a great fall of snow a few days before, but the weather seemed now
settled into a firm, enduring frost. The laird had not received a single
apology, and waited in the hall along with his lady to receive the
guests as they arrived.
"My dear, isna that a carriage coming up the Brose-fit-knowe? Auld Leddy
Clavers, I declare. She’ll be going to dress here, and the three girls.
Anne’s turned religious; so I’m thinking she’s ower auld to be married.
It’s a pity the minister’s no coming: his wife’s just dead ; but
Jeanie’ll be looking out for somebody. We maun put her next to young
Gerfluin. Elizabeth’s a thocht ower young; she can stay at the
side-table with Tammy Maxwell—he’s just a hobbletehoy--it wad be a very
good match in time."
In this way, as each party made its appearance, the laird arranged in a
moment the order in which every individual was to be placed at table;
and even before dinner, he had the satisfaction of seeing his guests
breaking off into the quiet ‘tete-a-tetes’, which the noise and
occupation of a general company render sweet and secluded as a meeting
"by moonlight alone.” While his eye wandered round the various parties
thus pleasantly engaged, it rested on the figure of a very beautiful
girl whom he had not previously remarked. She sat apart from all the
rest, and was amusing herself with looking at the pictures suspended
round the room, apparently unconscious of the presence of so many
strangers. She seemed in deep thought ; but as she gazed on the
representation of a battle-piece, her face changed its expression from
the calmness of apathy to the most vivid enthusiasm.
"Mercy on us a’!" whispered the laird to his wife, "wha’s she that? that
beautiful young lassie in the white goon ? An’ no’ a young bachelor
within a mile o’ her. Deil ane o’ them deserves such an angel ! "
"It’s a Miss Mowbray," was the reply; " she came with Mrs Carmichael, —a
great heiress they say : it’s the first time she was ever in Scotland."
"Aha! say ye sae? Then we’ll see if we canna keep her among us noo that
she is come. Angus M‘Leod—na, he’ll no do-he’s a gude enough lad, but
he’s no bonnie. Chairlie Fletcher—he wad do weel enough ; but I’m
thinking he’ll do better for Bell Johnson. ’Od, donnered auld man, no to
think o’ him before! Chairlie Melville’s the very man--the handsomest,
bravest, cleverest chield she could hae; and if she’s gotten the siller,
so much the better for Chairlie—they’ll mak a bonnie couple."
And in an instant the laird laid his hand on the shoulder of a young
man, who was engaged with a knot of gentlemen discussing some recent
news from the Peninsula, and dragging him away, said,—
"For shame, Chairlie, for shame ! Do you no see that sweet, modest
lassie a’ by hersel? Gang up to her this minute—bide by her as lang as
ye can—she’s weel worth a' the attention ye can pay her. Miss Mowbray,"
he continued, " I’m sorry my friend, Mrs Carmichael, has left ye sae
much to yoursel ; but here’s Chairlie, or rather I should say, Mr
Charles, or rather I should say, Lieutenant Charles Melville, that will
be happy to supply her place. He’ll tak ye in to yer dinner, and dance
wi’ ye at the ball."
"All in place of Mrs Carmichael, sir?" replied the young lady, with an
"Weel said, my dear, weel said ; but I maun leave younger folks to
answer ye. I’ve seen the time I wadna hae been very blate to gie ye an
answer that wad hae stoppit your ‘wee bit mou, sae sweet and bonnie.’ "
Saying these words, and whispering to his young friend, " Stick till
her, Chairlie," he bustled off, " on hospitable thoughts intent,” to
another part of the room.
After the introduction, the young people soon entered into conversation;
and, greatly to the laird’s satisfaction, the young soldier conducted
Miss Mowbray into the hall, sat next her all the time of dinner, and
seemed as delighted with his companion as the most match-making lady or
gentleman could desire. The lady, on the other hand, seemed in high
spirits, and laughed at the remarks of her neighbour with the greatest
appearance of enjoyment.
"How long have you been with Mrs Carmichael ?"
"I came the day before yesterday."
"Rather a savage sort of country, I am afraid, you find this, after the
polished scenes of your own land?"
"Do you mean the country,” replied the lady, "or the inhabitants? They
are not nearly such savages as I expected ; some of them seem
"It is only your good-nature that makes you think us so. When you know
us better, you will alter your opinion."
"Nay; now don’t be angry, or talk as all other Scotch people do, about
your national virtues. I know you are a very wonderful people—your men
all heroes, your peasants philosophers, and your women angels; but
seriously, I was very much disappointed to find you so like other
"Why, what did you expect? Did you think we were ‘men whose heads do
grow beneath their shoulders? ’ "
"No, I did not expect that; but I expected to find everything different
from what I had been accustomed to. Now, the company here are dressed
just like a party in England, and behave , in the same manner. Even the
language is intelligible at times; though the laird, I must say, would
require an interpreter."
"Ah, the jolly old laird! His face is a sort of polyglot dictionary-it
is the expression for good-humour, kindness, and hospitality, in all
"And who is that at his right hand”?
"What? the henchman? That’s Rory M‘Taggart—he was piper for twenty years
in the 73rd, and killed three men with his own hand at Vimiera."
"And is that the reason he is called the henchman ?”
"Yes; henchman means, ‘the piper with the bloody hand—the slaughterer of
"What a comprehensive word! It is almost equal to the laird’s face.”
But here the laird broke in upon their conversation.
"Miss Mowbray, dinna be frightened at a’ the daft things the wild sodger
is saying to you.” Then he added, in a lower tone, " Chairlie wad settle
down into a douce, quiet, steady, married man, for a’ his tantrums. It
wad be a pity if a Frenchman’s gun should spoil his beauty, puir fallow
The young lady bowed without comprehending a syllable of the speech of
the worthy host.
"Are you likely to be soon ordered abroad ?" she said.
"We expect the route for Spain every day; and then huzza for a peerage
or Westminster Abbey !"
"Ah! war is a fine game when it is played at a distance. Why can’t kings
settle their disputes without having recourse to the sword ?"
"I really can’t answer your question, but I think it must be out of a
kind regard for the interest of younger brothers. A war is a capital
provision for poor fellows like myself, who were born to no estate but
that excessively large one which the Catechism calls the ‘estate of sin
and misery.’ But come, I see from your face you are very romantic, and
are going to say something sentimental—luckily his Grace is proposing a
removal into the ball-room; may I beg the honour of your hand?”
"Aha, lad !" cried the laird, who had heard the last sentence; "are ye
at that wark already—asking a leddy’s hand on sic short an acquaintance?
But folk canna do’t ower sune."
The bustle caused by the secession of those who preferred Terpsichore to
Bacchus, luckily prevented Miss Mowbray’s hearing the laird's
observation, and in a few minutes she found herself entering with heart
and soul into the full enjoyment of a country dance.
Marriages, they say, are made in heaven. Charles Melville devoutly
wished the laird’s efforts might be successful, and that one could be
made on earth. She was indeed, as the laird expressed it, " a bonnie
cratur to look at.” I never could describe a beauty in my life—so the
loveliness of the English heiress must be left to the imagination. At
all events, she was " the bright consummate Bower of the whole wreath ”
which was then gathered together at Strath Lugas; and even Lady Clavers
"Miss Mowbray’s very weel put on indeed, for sae young a lassie. Her
hair’s something like our Anne’s—only I think Anne’s has a wee richer
tinge o’ the golden."
"Preserve us a'!" whispered the laird; "puir Anne’s hair is as red as a
"An’ dinna ye think her voice," said her ladyship--" dinna ye think her
voice is something like our Jeanie’s --only maybe no sae rich in the
"Feth, ma’am," answered the laird, "I maun wait till I hear Miss Mowbray
speak the Gaelic, for really the saft sort o’ beautiful English she
speaks gies her a great advantage."
"As ye say, Mr Kirkton," continued her ladyship, who, like all great
talkers, never attended to what any one said but herself, "Jeanie has a
great advantage ower her; but she’s weel enough, for a’ that."
In the meantime the young lady, who was the subject of this
conversation, troubled herself very little as to what Lady Clavers said
or thought on that occasion. I shall not on any account say that she was
in love, for I highly disapprove of such a speedy surrender to Dan Cupid
in the softer sex; but at all events she was highly delighted with the
novelty of the scene, and evidently pleased with her partner. No scruple
of the same kind restrains me from mentioning the state of Charlie
Melville’s heart. He was as deeply in love as ever was the hero of a
romance, and in the pauses of the dance indulged in various reveries
about loves and a cottage, and a number of other absurd notions, which
are quite common, I believe, on such occasions. He never deigned to
think on so contemptible an object as a butcher’s bill, or how
inconvenient it would be to maintain a wife and four or five angels of
either sex on ninety pounds a year; but at the same time, I must do him
the justice to state, that, although he was a Scotsman, the fact of Miss
Mowbray’s being an heiress never entered into his contemplation; and if
I may mention my own opinion, I really believe he would have been better
pleased if she had been as portionless as himself.
But time and tide wear through the toughest day ; no wonder, then, they
wore very rapidly through the happiest evening he had ever spent. The
Duke and the more distant visitors had taken their leave; "the mirth and
fun grew fast and furious ” among the younger and better acquainted
parties who were left; but, greatly to the mortification of the young
soldier, his partner was called away at the end of a dance, just when he
had been anticipating a delightful ‘tete-a-tete’ while the next was
forming. With his heart nearly bursting with admiration and regret, he
wrapt her in her cloaks and shawls, and in silent dejection, with only a
warm pressure of the hand, which he was enchanted to find returned, he
handed her into Mrs Carmichael’s old-fashioned open car, though the
night was dark and stormy,—and after listening to the last sound of the
wheels as they were lost among the snow, he slowly turned, and
re-entered the ball-room.
Their absence, to all appearance, had not been noticed by a single
eye,—a thing at which he, as a lover under such circumstances is bound
to be, was greatly surprised.
"Blockheads!" he said,
"they would not see the darkness if the sun were extinguished at
midday." And he fell into a train of reflections, which, from the
expression of his countenance, did not seem to be of a very exhilarating
nature. In about twenty minutes, however, after his return, he was
roused by the henchman, whom he had spoken of at dinner, who beckoned
him from the hall.
"The bonny cratur ! —the bonny cratur!" he began,—"an’ sic a nicht to
gang hame in !—the stars a’ put out, the snaw beginning to drift, and a
spate in the Lugas! Noo, if auld Andrew Strachan, the Leddy Carmichael’s
coachman,—doited auld body, an’ mair than half fou’,—tries the ford, oh,
the lassie, the bonny lassie’ll be lost! an’ I’ll never hae the heart to
spend the crown-piece she slippit into my hand just afore the dancin’ !
But what more the worthy henchman might have said must remain a mystery
to all succeeding time; for long before he had come to the episode of
the crown, Charles had rushed hatless into the open air, and dashed
forward at the top of his speed to overtake the carriage, in time to
warn them from the ford. But the snow had already formed itself into
enormous wreaths, which, besides impeding his progress, interfered
greatly with his knowledge of the localities; and he pursued his
toilsome way more in despair than hope. He shouted, in the expectation
of his voice being heard, but he heard no reply. He stooped down to see
the track of the wheels, but the snow fell so fast and drifted at the
same time, that it was quite undistinguishable, even if the darkness had
not been so deep. However, onwards he pressed towards the ford, and
shouted louder and louder as he approached it.
The roaring of the stream, now swollen to a prodigious height, drowned
his cries, and his eyes in vain searched for the object of his pursuit;
far and near he directed his gaze, and felt a transport of joy at the
hope, which their absence presented, that they had gone round by the
bridge and were saved. He was about to return, when he thought he heard,
in a bend in the river, a little way down, a faint scream above the
roaring of the torrent. Quick as lightning he rushed towards the spot,
and hallooed as loud as he could. The shriek was distinctly repeated,
and a great way out in the water he saw some substance of considerable
size. He shouted again, and a voice replied to him from the river. In an
instant he had plunged into the stream, and though it was rushing with
great impetuosity, it was luckily not so deep as to prevent his wading.
And after considerable toil, for the water was above his breast, he
succeeded in reaching the object he had descried from the bank. It was,
indeed, Mrs Carmichael’s car, and in it he had the inexpressible delight
to find the two ladies, terrified, indeed, but happily in full
possession of their presence of mind.
In a few hurried words, he desired them to trust entirely to him, and
begging the elder lady to remain quiet in the carriage, he lifted the
younger in his arms,—but in the most earnest language she implored him
to save her companion first, as she had such confidence in herself that
she was certain she could remain in the carriage till he had effected
his return. Pressing her to his heart in admiration of such magnanimity,
he laid her gently back, and lifting Mrs Carmichael from her seat, he
pushed desperately for the shore. The water even in this short time had
perceptibly risen, and on reaching the bank, and depositing his burden
in safety, he rushed once more through the torrent, fearful lest a
moment’s delay should make it impracticable to reach the car. That light
equipage was now shaking from the impetuous attacks of the stream, and
at the moment when the fainting girl was lifted up, a rush of greater
force taking it, now unbalanced by any weight, forced it on its side,
and rolled it off into the great body of the river. It had been carried
more than fifty yards below the ford, without, however, being
overturned, and had luckily become entangled with the trunk of a tree ;
the horse, after severe struggles, had been drowned, and his inanimate
weight had helped to delay the progress of the carriage. The coachman
was nowhere to be found. Meanwhile the three, once more upon the land,
pursued their path back to Strath Lugas. Long and toilsome was the road,
but cheered to the young soldier by the happy consciousness that he had
saved his "heart’s idol" from death. Tired, and nearly worn out with the
harassing nature of their journey and of their feelings, they at length
reached the hospitable mansion they had so lately quitted.
The music was still sounding, the lights still burning brightly,--but
when old Simon Kirkton saw the party enter his hall, no words can do
justice to the horror of his expression. The ladies were consigned to
the attention of his wife. He himself took especial care of the hero of
the story ; and after having heard the whole adventure, when the
soldier, refreshed, and in a suit of the laird’s apparel, was entering
the dancing room, he slapped him on the shoulder, and said— "Deil a
doubt o’t noo. If ye're no lalrd o’ the bonny English acres, and gudeman
o’ the bonny English leddy, I’ve nae skill in spaein’, that’s a’."
The adventure quickly spread, and people were sent off in all directions
with lights, to discover, if possible, the body of the unfortunate
Andrew Strachan. After searching for a long time, our friend the
henchman thought he heard a voice close beside him, on the bank. He held
down his lantern, and, sure enough, there he saw the object of their
pursuit, lying at the very edge of the water, and his body on the land!
The water from time to time burst over his face, and it was only on
these occasions that an almost inarticulate grunt showed that the
comatose disciple of John Barleycorn was yet alive. The henchman
summoned his companions, and on attentively listening to the groans, as
they considered them, of the dying man, they distinctly heard him, as he
attempted to spit out the water which broke in tiny waves over his
mouth, exclaiming, " Faugh, faugh ! I doot ye’re changing the liquor—a
wee drap mair whisky, and a sma’ spoonfu’ o’ sugar." The nodding
charioteer had been ejected from his seat on the first impetus of the "
spate," and been safely floated to land, without perceiving any
remarkable change of situation. It is needless to say he was
considerably surprised to discover where he was on being roused by the
"It’s my belief” said Jock Stewart, the piper, "the drucken body thocht
he was tipplin’ a’ the time in the butler’s ha’! It wad be a gude deed
to let the daidlin’ haveril follow his hat and wig; and I’m thinkin’ by
this time they’ll be down about Fort-George."
The weather was become so stormy, and the snow so deep, that it was
impossible for any one to leave the house that night. The hospitable
laird immediately set about making accommodation for so large a party,
and by a little management he contrived to render everybody comfortable.
The fiddlers were lodged in the barn, the ladies settled by the
half-dozen in a room, and a supply of cloaks was collected for the
gentlemen in the hall. Where people are willing to be pleased, it is
astonishing how easy they find it. Laughter long and loud resounded
through all the apartments, and morn began to stand "upon the misty
mountain-tops" ere sleep and silence took possession of the mansion.
Next day the storm still continued. The prospect, as far as the eye
could reach, was a dreary waste of snow; and it was soon perceived, by
those who were skilful in such matters, that the whole party were fairly
snowed-up, and how long their imprisonment might last no one could tell.
It was amazing with what equanimity the intelligence was listened to;
one or two young ladies, who had been particularly pleased with their
partners, went as far as to say it was delightful.
The elders of the party bore it with great good-humour, on being assured
from the state of the larder that there was no danger of a famine ; and,
above all, the laird himself, who had some private schemes of his own to
serve, was elevated into the seventh heaven by the embargo laid on his
"If this bides three days there’ll be a dizzen couple before Leddy-day.
It’s no possible for a lad and a lass to be snawed up thegither three
days without melting ;—but we’ll see the night how it’s a' to be
managed. Has onybody seen Mrs Carmichael and Miss Mowbray this morning?”
But before this question could he answered the ladies entered the room.
They were both pale from their last night’s adventure; but while the
elder lady was shaking hands with her friends, and receiving their
congratulations, the eyes of her young companion wandered searchingly
round the apartment till they fell on Charles Melville. Immediately a
flush came over her cheek, which before was deadly pale, and she started
forward and held out her hand. He rushed and caught it, and even in
presence of all that company could scarcely resist the inclination to
put it to his lips.
"Thanks! thanks !" was all she said ; and even in saying these short
words her voice trembled, and a tear came to her eye. But when she saw
that all looks were fixed on her, she blushed more deeply than ever, and
retired to the side of Mrs Carmichael. The scene passed by no means
unheeded by the laird.
"Stupid whelp !" he said, " what for did he no kiss her, an it were just
to gie her cheeks an excuse for growing sae rosy? ’Od, if I had saved
her frae drooning, I wadna hae been sae nice, —that’s to say, my dear,"
he added to his wife, who was standing by, " if I hadna a wife o’ my
The storm lasted for five days. How the plans of the laird with regard
to the matrimonial comforts of his guests prospered, I have no intention
of detailing. I believe, however, he was right in his predictions, and
the minister was presented with eight several sets of tea-things within
three months. Many a spinster at this moment looks back with regret to
her absence from the snow-party of Strath Lugas, and dates all her
misfortunes from that unhappy circumstance. On the fourth morning of
their imprisonment the laird was presented with a letter from Charles
Melville. In it he informed him that he dared not be absent longer, in
case of his regiment being ordered abroad, and that he had taken his
chance and set off on his homeward way in spite of the snow. It ended
with thanks for all his kindness, and an affectionate farewell. When
this was announced to the party they expressed great regret at his
absence. It seemed to surprise them all. Mrs Carmichael was full of
wonder on the occasion ; but Miss Mowbray seemed totally unmoved by his
departure. She was duller in spirits than before, and refused to dance;
but in other respects the mirth was as uproarious, and the dancing as
joyous, as ever ;—and in a day the snow was sufficiently cleared
away—the party by different conveyances broke up—and the laird was left
alone, after a week of constant enjoyment.
Four years after the events I have related, a young man presented
himself for the first time in the pump-room at Bath. The gossips of that
busy city formed many conjectures as to who and what he could be. Some
thought him a foreigner, some a man of consequence ‘incognito’; but all
agreed that he was a soldier and an invalid. He seemed to be about
six-and-twenty, and was evidently a perfect stranger. After he had
stayed in the room a short time, and listened to the music, he went out
into the street, and just as he made his exit by one door, the marvels
of the old beldames who congregated under the orchestra were called into
activity by the entrance, through the other, of a young lady leaning on
the arm of an old one. Even so simple an incident as this is sufficient
in a place like Bath to give rise to various rumours and conjectures.
She was tall, fair, and very beautiful, but she also seemed in bad
health, and to be perfectly unknown. Such an event had not occurred at
the pump-room for ages before. Even the master of the ceremonies was at
fault. " As near as he could guess, to the best of his conjecture, he
believed he had never seen either the gentleman or the lady."
While surmises of all kinds were going their rounds in this manner, the
gentleman pursued his walk up Milsom Street. His pace was slow, and his
strength did not seem equal even to so gentle an exertion. He leant for
support upon his walking-stick, and heard, mingled with many coughs, a
voice which he well knew, calling,—
"Chairlie—Chairlie Melville, I say! pull, ye deil’s buckie,—ugh-ugh!--sic
a confounded conveyance for a Highland gentleman. Ah, Chairlie, lad,"
said our old acquaintance the laird, who had now got up to where his
friend was standing, " sad times for baith of us. Here am I sent here wi’
a cough that wad shake a kirk, ugh-ugh.—An’ the gout in baith my
feet,--to be hurled about in a chair that gangs upon wheels,—ugh-ugh,—by
a lazy English vagabond that winna understand a word that I say till
him. —An’ you," and here the old man looked up in the young soldier’s
face—" Oh, Chairlie, Chairlie! is this what the wars hae brocht ye to
?—ugh—ugh—yer verra mither wadna ken ye,—but come awa, —come awa to my
lodgings in Pultney Street, and tell us a’ about what ye’ve been doin’,—ugh—ugh,-—my
fit, my fit, —pu’ awa’, ye ne’er-do-weel ; turn about, and be hanged
till ye,—do ye no ken the road to Pultney Street yet? Come awa, Chairlie,
my man, dinna hurry." And thus mingling his commands to his chairman,
with complaints of the gout to his friend, the laird led the way to his
Charlie’s story was soon told. He had shared in all the dangers and
triumphs of the last three years of the war. He had been severely
wounded at Waterloo, and had come to Bath with a debilitated frame and a
major’s commission. But though he spoke of past transactions as gaily as
he could, the quick eyes of the laird perceived there was some " secret
sorrow ” which weighed down his spirits.
"An’ did ye meet with nae love adventure in your travels? For ye maunna
tell me a bit wound in the shouther would mak ye sae doun-hearted as ye
are. Is there nae Spanish or French lassie that gies ye a sair heart?
Tell it a’ to me, an’ if I can be of ony use in bringin’ it about, ye
may depend I’ll do all in my power to help ye."
"No," replied Charles, smiling at the continued match-making
propensities of his friend; "I shall scarcely require your services on
that score. I never saw Frenchwoman or Spaniard that cost me a single
sigh. " And here, as if by the force of the word itself, the young man
"Weel, it must be some English or Scotch lassie then; for it’s easy to
be seen that somebody costs ye a sigh. I ance thocht you were in a fair
way o’ winnin' yon bonny cratur ye saved frae the spate o’ the Lugas;
but ye gaed awa in such a hurry the plant hadna time to tak root."
"She was too rich for the poor penniless subaltern to look to," replied
the young man, a deep glow coming over his face.
"Havers! havers! She wad hae given a’ her lands yon night for a foot o’
dry grund. An’ as ye won her, ye had the best right to wear her. And I’m
muckle mista’en if the lassie didna think sae hersel.”
"Miss Mowbray must have overrated my services; but at all events I had
no right to take advantage of that fortunate accident to better my
fortunes by presuming on her feelings of gratitude to her preserver.”
"What for no? what for no?” cried the laird; "ye should hae married her
on the spot. There were eight couples sprang frae the snaw-meeting—ye
should hae made the ninth, and then ye needna hae had a ball put through
your shouther, nor ever moved frae the braw holmes o’ Surrey. ’Od, I
wish it had been me that took her out o` the water ; that is, if I had
been as young as you, and Providence had afflicted me with the loss o’
"If I had been on a level with her as to fortune "——
"Weel, but noo yer brither’s dead, ye’re heir o’ the auld house, an’
ye’re a major—what’s to forbid the banns noo ? "
"I have never heard of Miss Mowbray from that hour to this. In all
probability she is married to some lucky fellow ’—
"She wasna married when I saw Mrs Carmichael four months since ; she was
in what leddies call delicate health though; she had aye been melancholy
since the time of the water business. Mrs Carmichael thought ye were a
great fule for rinnin’ awa."
"Mrs Carmichael is very kind.”
"’Deed is she,” replied the laird, " as kind-hearted a woman as ever
lived. She’s maybe a thocht ower auld, or I dinna doubt she wad be very
happy to marry you hersel."
"I hope her gratitude would not carry her to such an alarming length, "
said Charles, laughing. " It would make young men rather tender of
saving ladies’ lives. "
"If I knew where she was just now, I wad soon put everything to rights.
It’s no ower late yet, though ye maun get fatter before the marriage—ye
wad be mair like a skeleton than a bridegroom. But, save us! what’s the
matter wi’ ye? are ye no weel? headache? gout? what is’t, man? Confound
my legs, I canna stir. Sit down, and rest ye."
But Charles, with his eyes intently fixed on some object in the street,
gazed as if some horrible apparition had met his sight. Alternately
hushed and pale, he continued as if entranced, and then, deeply sighing,
sunk senseless on the floor.
"Rory, Rory! ” screamed the laird —"ugh, ugh! oh, that I could get at
the bell! Cheer up, Chairlie. Fire! fire ! ugh, ugh !—the lad will be
dead before a soul comes near him. Rory, Rory !”
And luckily the ancient henchman, Rory MacTaggart, made his appearance
in time to save his master from choking through fear and surprise.
Charlie was soon recovered, and, when left again alone with the laird,
he said- "As I hope to live, I saw her from this very window, just as we
were speaking of her. Even her face I saw ! Oh, so changed and pale! But
her walk—no two can have such a graceful carriage ! "
"Seen wha?" said the laird. "Mrs Carmichael? For it was her we were
speaking o'—ay, she’s sair changed; and her walk is weel kent; only I
thocht she was a wee stiffer frae the rheumatism last year. But whaur is
"It was Miss Mowbray I saw. She went into that house opposite.”
"What! the house wi’ the brass knocker, green door—the verandah with the
flower-pots, an’ twa dead geraniums ? ”
"Then just ring the bell, and tell that English cratur to pu’ me in the
wee whirligig across the street."
"Impossible, my dear laird! recollect your gout. ”
"Deil hae the gout and the cough too! Order the chair; I’ll see if it’s
her in five minutes.”
And away, in spite of all objections and remonstrances, went the laird
to pay his visit. Now, if any one should doubt of the success of his
negotiations, I —the writer of this story—Charles Melville, late major,
—th regiment, shall be happy to convince him of it, if he will drop in
on me any day at Mowbray Hall, by my own evidence, and also that of my
happy and still beautiful Madeline, though she is the mother of three
rosy children, who at this moment are making such an intolerable noise
that I cannot understand a sentence I am writing. I may just mention,
that the laird attended the wedding, and that his cough entirely left
him. He does not suffer an attack of the gout more than once a year. He
has adopted my second boy, and every autumn we spend three months with
him at Strath Lugas. Oh, that all match-makers were as innocent and
disinterested as jolly old Simon Kirkton! — ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’.