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Book of Scottish Story
Basil Rolland - Chapter 2


“The red cross glares on Frazer’s towers,
My love, I dare not stay;
The bugle peals through Lovat’s bowers,
My love, I must away.” – OLD BALLAD

We shall now conduct the reader to a shop in the Broadgate, over which appeared in ancient characters,-

PATRICK LESLIE AND SAMUEL FAIRTEXT

It is not to be supposed that the street had the same appearance which it now exhibits ; neither are the unsophisticated to imagine that the shops resembled those of our own times, with lofty roofs, gigantic windows, mahogany counters, splendid chandeliers, and elegant gas burners. The windows were not much larger than the loop-holes of a modern prison; the roof was low and covered with cobwebs, and the goods exposed for sale were all lying at sixes and sevens. The forepart of the shop extended about ten feet forward into the street, and was decorated on the outside with swatches of the various commodities that were to be sold within. In the back shop, which was nearly as dark as midnight, were deposited the whole of the goods, except the specimens just mentioned. In the inmost recess of these penetralia, was Provost Leslie, with three or four stout fellows, removing, under his command, the goods in the back shop or warehouse.

"Saunders,” said the provost, "ye’ll tak awa yon silks an’ velvets, and put them into the vault i’ the dryest—ay, that’s anither flask broken, ye careless gowk! I’ll set ye about your business gin ye wunna tak mair tent. As soon’s you get that barrel awa, ye’ll tak down the Prayer-Books from that shelf, and put up twa or three dozen o’ Confessions o’ Faith. An’, my little man, ye’ll run up to my lasses, and tell them to leave a’ their wark an’ come down to grease the sword blades, for fear that they rust in the cellar, an’ syne tell the same to Sammy Fairtext’s maidens, an' bring them a’ wi’ you as fast’s ye can.—Ay, Basil, are ye there? Troth, gentle or semple, ye maun help’s the day. You are a canny lad, sae try if ye can collect a’ the trinkets and the siller cups and spoons, and take them up by to my chamber.—Ye ne’er-do-weel ! ye haverel, Sandie Hackit, what garred you spill the wine on that web? Ye needna mind it now, ye sorrow ; it’s nae worth puttin’ out o’ Montrose’s way."

When Basil Rolland returned from executing his commission, the stranger whom he had seen on the former day was in the shop, engaged in conversation with Fairtext. The latter bade Basil conduct him to his house, whether he himself would follow when he had dispatched some necessary business. When they were seated, the stranger began--

"Thou hast seen, youth, that the things which I hinted to thee are in part come to pass. The city is in confusion, the men of war are discouraged, so that they will assuredly be a prey, and a spoil, and a derision to their adversaries. What dost thou now intend?”

"What but to join the army of Aboyne, and do battle with my best blood against these murdering rebels."

"And what would be thy reward, young man? Thy good sense tells thee that it is wrong to deprive free-born men of liberty of conscience. You would iight for your own slavery. Charles is one who regardeth not covenants. He will reward jugglers and lewd ones, rather than those who have shed their blood for his wicked house. But he already totters on his throne, and the day may not be distant when he himself shall cry for mercy from those whose fathers, mothers, and children he hath. slain. If you are vanquished in the approaching contest, all with you is lost; if successful, you are nothing the better, except for upholding a Papistical hierarchy, the raw project of a godless debauchee. Thy grandfather did battle on the wrong side, and, after his fall at the battle of Pinkie, the family fell from its former power, which it has never been able to regain."

"Let me ask what comfort or reward could I expect by deserting my friends? The Covenanters have renounced their oath of allegiance, and have imbrued their hands in their countrymen’s blood. Good can never follow an enterprise begun by perjury, and continued with carnage.”

"And did not Charles first deliberately break his oath and the covenant made with the people? The paction was therefore nullified by him, and could not bind the other party. If they have shed blood, their blood has been shed ; and it was not till every attempt at pacification failed that they took up the carnal weapon. And, for comfort, I have long supported this cause, and I can look back with greater pleasure to my conduct in this respect than thou canst on the picture of thy lady love which even now is peeping from thy bosom."

"It is my mother’s picture,” said Basil, blushing to the eyes.

"Thy mother’s!" said the stranger, while, with an emotion which he had not yet exhibited, he caught at the picture with such violence as to break the silken riband with which it was suspended, and, unconscious of Basil’s presence, riveted his eyes upon it, scanning the features with the greatest eagerness.

"The same, the same,” said he to himself; "the arched brow and the feeling eye, the smiling lips and the rosy cheek. But where is the principle that gave these their value? Where is the life, the soul?" continued he, kissing the senseless painting. “ How inferior was this once to thy beauty, and how superior now to thy mouldering ashes! Didst thou appear as the ideal charmer of a flitting dream, or wert thou indeed the pride of my youth, the light of my eyes, and the mistress of my heart? Thou wert! thou wert ! my sorrows tell it.—Preserve this picture, young man. Thou never, alas! knewest a rnother’s love -- or a father’s affection : the former flame was rudely quenched, the latter burned unknown to thee.”

"Then you knew my mother?”

"Ay, Basil, I knew her. We ran together in infancy, we danced together on the braes of Don, and we’ve each other garlands of the wild-flowers that grew on its banks. Then we thought this world was as heaven, while we were as innocent as angels. As we grew up, the sun, the wood, the rock, was our temple, where we admired the beauteous novelty of this earth. All was love, and peace, and joy ; but sorrow came, and those sweet dreams have vanished.”

During these unexpected communications, Basil felt himself strangely agitated. The old man seemed to know his history, and with a mixture of doubt and anxiety he inquired if he knew his father.

"I am thy father," said the stranger, weeping, and throwing himself into his arms; "I am thy parent, thy joyous, sorrowing parent. How often have I wished for this day! It is now come, and thou art all that I could wish—except in one thing, and that is not thy fault. I have claimed thee at a time when the boy must act the man, and take part boldly in the great struggle. We must depart from this place to-night. The citizens, thou knowest, are summoned to join the royalists under pain of death, so that we may be delayed if . we tarry longer. ”

"But whither, my father, shall we go?" said Basil.

"Where but to the persecuted remnant that are even now struggling for freedom. We will fight under the
banner of the Covenant."

"I have now found a father,” said Basil, " and his commands I must and will obey; but you will not bid me lift the sword when every stroke must fall upon an acquaintance or a school-mate?”

Isaac Rolland then began to mention to his son the reasons which induced him to join this party. He had no more of enthusiasm than it becomes one to have who knows he is embarked in a good cause. He mentioned his own early history, which we shall blend with that of his son. He had been one of the mission, headed by Sir Thomas Menzies, that visited King james in 1620 on civil business. About eighteen months before, he had lost a loving and beloved wife, with whom he had been acquainted from early infancy. She died on the birth of Basil. After this affliction, Isaac Rolland could find no pleasure in the place of his nativity, where everything reminded him of some dear departed joy; wherefore, having interest to obtain a situation at court, he left his only son Basil under the guardianship of his friend Fairtext, and contented himself by hearing often about him, without ever visiting him till the time at which this story commences. Rolland was acquainted partially with the circumstances of his birth. He knew that his mother died when she gave him life ; he knew also that his father existed, but nothing farther. Isaac laid before his son, in a clear and methodic manner, the reasons for which the Covenanters took up arms, the reasonableness of their demands, and the tyranny of their enemies. He neither palliated nor denied the excesses of either party, but contended that these should teach all to use their superiority mercifully. The forcible point of view in which he set his arguments wrought instant conviction in Basil’s mind, which his father observing,—

"Come, then,” said he, "and let us prepare for this struggle. If we be successful (and shall we not be so in such a cause ?), we shall have the consolation of having given peace and freedom to the land. I have a sufficiency of world’s goods, and thou and thy Mary--nay, start not, I know all—thou and thy Mary will be the support and comfort of my old age, and the subject of my last prayer, as ye have been of many, many in the days bygone. Bid your friends farewell, and an hour hence we meet to part no more. Be cautious, however, my son, for these men of Belial have set a guard on the g city, and death is the lot of all who seem about to leave it. Farewell ! God bless thee, my dear son ;” and he again folded him in his arms.

When Basil was left to himself, it I would have been difficult to say whether he was more sorrowful or joyful. He had found his father, a fond and doting father ; but his heart revolted at turning his back on the scenes of his youth and the smiling face of his Mary. The latter was the more distressing. She had listened to his suit, and the good-natured provost, when acquainted with it, had sworn that no other should marry his Mary. His own father seemed to approve his passion; wherefore he resolved to bid her farewell, and moved accordingly to the provost’s house.

She was alone, and received him with her usual smile of joy, but was startled at the unusual expression of sorrow on his countenance. "Mary," said he; but his lips could articulate nothing farther.

She became alarmed. "Basil, you are ill !" said she.

He seized her hand. "Mary, I am come to bid ’you farewell—perhaps a long farewell.’

She became pale in her turn, and asked him to explain himself. He resumed,—

"When we were young, Mary, you were my only companion, and I yours. You were unhappy when away from Basil Rolland, and I when absent from Mary Leslie. When, in the folly of play, I had girded myself with your father’s sword, you complained to him, while the tears ran down your cheeks, that brother Basil was leaving you to become a soldier. Such things at the time are trifling; but how often are they the types of blessed love in riper years. I am now to leave you to mingle in scenes of strife: let me carry with me the consciousness of your continued love ; confirm to me the troth that you have plighted, and, come life or death, I shall be happy.”

"But why O Basil, why are you leaving us? Have we not more need of thy presence than ever. "

"I have found my father, and by his command I leave you this very night."

"'This night!” said she, while the tears coursed in torrents down her pale cheek. Basil caught her in his arms, and they wept together who had never known sorrow before.

"Be comforted, Mary,” said Basil at length; "we shall meet again, and the present sorrow will enhance the gladness of the meeting. My happiness depends entirely on you, and my father looks fondly to our union.”

"Oh! when you are gone far from this, you will soon forget the vows that you have made. I have no mother to guide me ; oh, do not then deceive me, Basil. ”

"I swear that my heart never owned the influence of another, and that its last beat shall be true to you.”

"Then," said she, throwing herself into his arms, "I am happy!"

Basil hastily explained to her what he knew of his destination, and, with a chaste kiss of mutual transport, they separated.

He acquainted no other person with his intention of departing, but returned to make some preparations for his journey. These were soon completed; he was joined by his father, and leaving the town at sunset, they walked leisurely to Stonehaven, where Montrose’s army was encamped.


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