You have all heard of the Cheviot
mountains. If you have not, they are a rough, rugged, majestic chain of
hills, which a poet might term the Roman wall of nature; crowned with
snow, belted with storms, surrounded by pastures and fruitful fields, and
still dividing the northern portion of Great Britain from the southern.
With their proud summits piercing the clouds, and their dark rocky
declivities frowning upon the glens below, they appear symbolical of the
wild and untameable spirits of the Borderers who once inhabited their
sides. We say, you have all heard of the Cheviots, and know them to be
very high hills, like a huge clasp riveting England and Scotland together;
but we are not aware that you may have heard of Marchlaw, an old,
grey-looking farm-house, substantial as a modern fortress, recently, and
for aught we know to the contrary, still inhabited by Peter Elliot, the
proprietor of some five hundred surrounding acres. The boundaries of
Peter’s farm, indeed, were defined neither by fields, hedges, nor stone
walls. A wooden stake here, and a stone there, at considerable distances
from each other, were the general landmarks; but neither Peter nor his
neighbours considered a few acres worth quarrelling about; and their sheep
frequently visited each other’s pastures in a friendly way, harmoniously
sharing a family dinner, in the same spirit as their masters made
themselves free at each other’s tables.
Peter was placed in very unpleasant
circumstances, owing to the situation of Marchlaw House, which,
unfortunately, was built immediately across the "ideal line," dividing the
two kingdoms; and his misfortune was, that, being born within it, he knew
not whether he was an Englishman or a Scotchman. He could trace his
ancestral line no farther back than his great-grandfather, who, it
appeared from the family Bible, had, together with his grandfather and
father, claimed Marchlaw as their birth-place. They, however, were not
involved in the same perplexities as their descendant. The parlour was
distinctly acknowledged to be in Scotland, and two-thirds of the kitchen
were as certainly allowed to be in England; his three ancestors were born
in the room over the parlour, and therefore, were Scotchmen beyond
question; but Peter, unluckily, being brought into the world before the
death of his grandfather, his parents occupied a room immediately over the
debateable boundary line which crossed the kitchen. The room, though
scarcely eight feet square, was evidently situated between the two
countries; but, no one being able to ascertain what portion belonged to
each, Peter, after many arguments and altercations upon the subject, was
driven to the disagreeable alternative of confessing he knew not what
countryman he was. What rendered the confession the more painful was, it
was Peter’s highest ambition to be thought a Scotchman. All this arable
land lay on the Scotch side; his mother was collaterally related to the
Stuarts; and few families were more ancient or respectable than the
Elliots. Peter’s speech, indeed, bewrayed him to be a walking partition
between the two kingdoms, a living representation of the Union; for in one
word he pronounced the letter r with the broad masculine sound of
the North Briton, and in the next with the liquid burr of the
Peter, or, if you prefer it, Peter
Elliot, Esquire, of Marchlaw, in the counties of Northumberland, and
Roxburgh, was, for many years, the best runner, leaper, and wrestler,
between Wooler and Jedburgh. Whirled from his hand, the ponderous bullet
whizzed through the air like a pigeon on the wing; and the best putter on
the Borders quailed from competition. As a feather in his grasp, he seized
the unwieldy hammer, swept it round and round his head, accompanying with
agile limb its evolutions, swiftly as swallows play round a circle, and
hurled it from his hands like a shot from a rifle, till antagonists shrunk
back, and the spectators burst into a shout. "Well done, Squire! the
Squire for ever !" once
exclaimed a servile observer of titles. "Squire! wha are ye squiring. at
?" returned Peter. "Confound ye! where was ye when I was christened
Squire? My name’s Peter Elliot—your man, or onybody’s man, at whatever
they like !"
Peter’s soul was free, bounding, and
buoyant, as the wind that carolled in a zephyr, or shouted in a hurricance,
upon his native hills; and his body was thirteen stone of healthy,
substantial flesh, steeped in the spirits of life. He had been long
married, but marriage had wrought no change upon him. They who suppose
that wedlock transforms the lark into an owl, offer an insult to the
lovely beings who, brightening our darkest hours with the smiles of
affection, teach us that that only is unbecoming in the husband which is
disgraceful in the man. Nearly twenty years had passed over them; but
Janet was still as kind, and, in his eyes, as beautiful, as when,
bestowing on him her hand, she blushed her vows at the altar; and he was
still as happy, as generous, and as free. Nine fair children sat round
their domestic hearth, and one, the youngest of the flock, smiled upon his
mother’s knee. Peter had never known sorrow; he was blest in his wife, in
his children, in his flocks. He had become richer than his fathers. He was
beloved by his neighbours, the tillers of his ground, and his herdsmen;
yea, no man envied his prosperity. But a blight passed over the harvest of
his joys, and gall was rained into the cup of his felicity.
It was Christmas day, and a more
melancholy-looking sun never rose on the 25th of December. One vast sable
cloud, like a universal pall, overspread the heavens. For weeks, the
ground had been covered with clear dazzling snow; and, as, throughout the
day, the rain continued its unwearied and monotonous drizzle, the earth
assumed a. character and appearance melancholy and troubled as the
heavens. Like a mastiff that has lost its owners the wind howled dolefully
down the glens, and was re-echoed from. the caves of the mountains, as the
lamentations of a legion of invisible spirits. The frowning, snow-clad
precipices were instinct with motion, as avalanche upon avalanche, the
larger burying the less, crowded downward in their tremendous journey to
the plain. The simple mountain rills had assumed the majesty of rivers;
the broader streams were swollen into the wide torrent, and, gushing forth
as cataracts, in fury and in foam, enveloped the valleys in an angry
flood. But, at Marchlaw, the fire blazed blithely; the kitchen groaned
beneath the load of preparations for a joyful feast; and glad faces glided
from room to room.
Peter Elliot kept Christmas, not so
much because it was Christmas, as in honour of its being the birthday of
Thomas his first-born, who, that day, entered his nineteenth year. With a
father’s love, his heart yearned for all his children; but Thomas was the
pride of his eyes. Cards of apology had not then found their way among our
Border hills; and, as all knew that, although Peter admitted no spirits
within his threshold, nor a drunkard at his table, he was, nevertheless,
no niggard in his hospitality, his invitations were accepted without
ceremony. The guests were assembled; and the kitchen being the only
apartment in the building large enough to contain them, the cloth was
spread upon a long, clear, oaken table, stretching from England into
Scotland. On the English end of the board were placed a ponderous
plum-pudding, studded with temptation, and a smoking sirloin; on Scotland,
a savoury and well-seasoned haggis, with a sheep’s head and trotters;
while the intermediate space was filled with the good things of this life,
common to both kingdoms and to the seasons.
The guests from the north, and from
the south, were arranged promiscuously. Every seat was filled—save one.
The chair by Peter’s right hand remained unoccupied. He had raised his
hands before his eyes, and besought a blessing on what was placed before
them, and was preparing to carve for his visitors, when his eyes fell upon
the vacant chair. The knife dropped upon the table. Anxiety flashed across
his countenance, like an arrow from an unseen hand.
"Janet, where is Thomas ?" he
inquired; "hae nane o’ ye seen him? and, without waiting an answer, he
continued—"How is it possible he can be absent at a time like this? And on
such a day too? Excuse me a minute, friends, till I just step out and see
if I can find him. Since ever I kept this day, as mony o’ ye ken, he has
always been at my right hand, in that very chair; and I canna think o’
beginning our dinner while I see it empty."
"If the filling of the chair be
all," said a pert young sheep-farmer, named Johnson, "I will step into it
till Master Thomas arrive."
"Ye’re not a faither, young man,"
said Pete; and walked out of the room.
Minute succeeded minute, but Peter
returned not. The guests became hungry, peevish, and gloomy, while an
excellent dinner continued spoiling before them. Mrs. Elliot, whose
good-nature was the most prominent feature in her character, strove, by
every possible effort, to beguile the unpleasant impressions she perceived
gathering upon their countenances.
"Peter is just as bad as him," she
remarked, "to hae gane to seek him when he kenned the dinner wouldna keep.
And I’m sure Thomas kenned it would be ready at one o’clock to a minute.
It’s sae unthinking and unfriendly like to keep folk waiting." And
endeavouring to smile upon a beautiful black-haired girl of seventeen, who
sat by her elbow, she continued, in an anxious whisper—" Did ye see
naething o’ him, Elizabeth, hinny ?"
The maiden blushed deeply; the
question evidently gave freedom to a tear, which had for some time been an
unwilling prisoner in the brightest eyes of the room; and the monosyllable
"No," that trembled from her lips, was audible only to the ear of the
inquirer. In vain Mrs. Elliot despatched one of her children after another
in quest of their father and brother; they came and went, but brought no
tidings more cheering than the moaning of the hollow wind. Minutes rolled
into hours, yet neither came. She perceived the prouder of her guests
preparing to withdraw, and, observing that "Thomas’s absence was so
singular and unaccountable, and so unlike either him or his faither, she
didna ken what apology to make to her friends for such treatment; but it
was needless waiting, and begged they would use no ceremony but just
No second invitation was necessary.
Good humour appeared to be restored, and sirloins, pies, pasties and
moor-fowl, began to disappear like the lost son. For a moment, Mrs. Elliot
apparently partook in the restoration of cheerfulness; but a low sigh at
her elbow again drove the colour from her rosy cheeks. Her eye wandered to
the farther end of the table, and rested on the unoccupied seat of her
husband, and the vacant chair of her first-born. Her heart fell heavily
within her; all the mother gushed into her bosom; and rising from the
table, "What in the world can be the meaning o’ this?" said she, as she
hurried, with a troubled countenance towards the door. Her husband met her
on the threshold.
"Where has ye been, Peter? said she,
eagerly; "has ye seen naething o’ him ?"
"Naething! naething !" replied he;
"is he no cast up yet?" And with a melancholy glance, his eyes sought an
answer in the deserted chair. His lips quivered, his tongue faltered.
"Gude forgie me !" said he; "and
such a day for even an enemy to be out in! I’ve been up and doun every way
that I can think on, but not a living creature has seen or heard tell o’
him. Ye’ll excuse me, neebors," he added, leaving the house; "I must awa
again for I canna rest."
"I ken by mysel’, friends," said
Adam Bell, a decent looking Northumbrian, "that a faither’s heart is as
sensitive as the apple o’ his e’e, and I think we would show a want o’
natural sympathy and respect for our worthy neighbour if we didna every
one get his foot into the stirrup, without loss o’ time, and assist him in
his search. For, in my rough, country way o’ thinking, it must be
something particularly out o’ the common that could tempt Thomas to be
amissing. Indeed, I needa say tempt, for there could be no
inclination in the way. And our hills," he concluded, in a lower tone,
"are no ower chancy in other respects, besides the breaking up o’ the
"Oh!" said Mrs. Elliot, wringing her
hands, "I have had the coming o’ this about me for days and days. My head
was growing dizzy with happiness, but thoughts came stealing upon me like
ghosts, and I felt a lonely soughing about my heart, without being able to
tell the cause; but the cause has come at last! And my dear Thomas— the
very pride and staff o’ my life—is lost !—lost to me for ever!"
"I ken, Mrs. Elliot," replied the
Northumbrian, "it is an easy matter to say compose yourself, for them that
dinna ken what it is to feel. But, at the same time, in our plain, country
way o’ thinking, we are always ready to believe the worst. I’ve often
heard my faither say, and I’ve as often remarked it myself, that, before
anything happens to a body, there is a something comes owre them,
like a cloud before the face o’ the sun; a sort o’ dum whispering about
the breast from the other world. And, though I trust there is naething o’
the kind in your case, yet, as you observe, when I find myself growing
dizzy, as it were, with happiness, it makes good a saying o’ my mother’s,
poor body! ‘Bairns, bairns,’ she used to say, ‘there is ower muckle
singing in your heads to-night; we will have a shower before bed-time.’
And I never in my born days saw it fail."
At any other period, Mr. Bell’s
dissertation on presentiment, would have been found a fitting text on
which to hang all the dreams, wraiths, warnings, and marvellous
circumstances, that had been handed down to the company from the days of
their grandfathers; but, in the present instance, they were too much
occupied in consultation regarding the different routes to be taken in
Twelve horsemen, and some half-dozen
pedestrians, were seen hurrying in divers directions from Marchlaw, as the
last faint lights of a melancholy day were yielding to the heavy darkness
which appeared pressing in solid masses down the sides of the mountains.
The wives and daughters of the parties were alone left with the
disconsolate mother, who alternately pressed her weeping children to her
heart, and told them to weep not, for their brother would soon return;
while the tears stole down her own cheeks, and the infant in her arms wept
because its mother wept. Her friends strove with each other to inspire
hope, and poured upon her ear their mingled and loquacious consolation.
But one remained silent. The daughter of Adam Bell, who sat by Mrs.
Elliot’s elbow at table, and shrunk into an obscure corner of the room.
Before her face she held a handkerchief wet with tears. Her bosom throbbed
convulsively; and, as occasionally her broken sighs burst from their
prison-house, a significant whisper passed among the younger part of the
Mrs. Elliot approached her, and
taking her hand tenderly within both of hers—"O hinny! hinny!" said she, "yer
sighs gae through my heart like a knife! An’ what can I do to comfort ye?
Come, Elizabeth, my bonny love, let us hope for the best. Ye see before ye
a sorrowin’ mother! —a mother that fondly hoped to see you an’—I canna say
it !—an’ am ill qualified to gie comfort, when my own heart is like a
furnace! But oh! let us try and remember the blessed portion, ‘Whom the
Lord loveth He chasteneth,’ an’ inwardly pray for strength to say, ‘His
will be done!’"
Time stole on towards midnight, and
one by one the unsuccessful party returned. As foot after foot approached,
every breath was held to listen. "No, no, no !" cried the mother, again
and again, with increasing anguish, "it’s no the foot o’ my ain bairn;"
while her keen gaze still remained riveted upon the door, and was not
withdrawn, nor the hope of despair relinquished, till the individual
entered, and, with a silent and ominous shake of his head, betokened his
fruitless efforts. The clock had struck twelve; all were returned save the
father. The wind howled more wildly; the rain poured upon the windows in
ceaseless torrents; and the roaring of the mountain rivers gave a
character of deeper ghostliness to their sepulchral silence; for they sat,
each rapt in forebodings, listening to the storm; and no sounds were
heard, save the groans of the mother, the weeping of her children, and the
bitter and broken sobs of the bereaved maiden, who leaned her head upon
her father’s bosom, refusing to be comforted.
At length the barking of the
farm-dog announced footsteps at a distance. Every ear was raised to
listen, every eye turned to the door; but, before the tread was yet
audible to the listeners—"Oh, it is only Peter’s foot !" said the
miserable mother, and, weeping, arose to meet him.
"Janet! Janet!" he exclaimed, as he
entered, and threw his arms round her neck, "what’s this come upon us at
He cast an inquisitive glance around
his dwelling, and a convulsive shiver passed over his manly frame, as his
eye again fell on the vacant chair, which no one had ventured to occupy.
Hour succeeded hour, but the company separated not; and low sorrowful
whispers mingled with the lamentations of the parents.
"Neighbours," said Adam Bell, "the
morn is a new day, and we will wait to see what it may bring forth; but,
in the meantime, let us read a portion o’ the Divine Word, an’ kneel
together in prayer, that, whether or not the day-dawn cause light to shine
upon this singular bereavement, the Sun o’ Righteousness may arise wi’
healing on his wings, upon the hearts o’ this afflicted family, an’ upon
the hearts o’ all present."
"Amen!" responded Peter, wringing
his hands; and his friend, taking down the Ha’ Bible, read the chapter
wherein it is written---."It is better to be in the house of mourning than
in the house of feasting," and again the portion which sayeth—"It is well
for me that I have been afflicted, for before I was afflicted, I went
The morning came, but brought no
tidings of the lost son. After a solemn farewell, all the v-isitants, save
Adam Bell and his daughter, returned every one to their own house; and the
disconsolate father, with his servants, again renewed their search among
the hills and surrounding villages.
Days, weeks, months, and years,
rolled on. Time had subdued the anguish of the parents into a holy calm;
but their lost first-born was not forgotten, although no trace of his fate
had been discovered. The general belief was, that he had perished in the
breaking up of the snow; and the few in whose remembrance he still lived,
merely spoke of his death as a "very extraordinary circumstance,"
remarking that "he was a wild, venturesome sort o’ lad."
Christmas had succeeded Christmas,
and Peter Elliot still kept it in commemoration of the birthday of him who
was not. For the first few years after the loss of their son, sadness and
silence characterised the party who sat down to dinner at Marchlaw, and
still at Peter’s right hand was placed the vacant chair. But as the
younger branches of the family advanced in years, the remembrance of their
brother became less poignant. Christmas was, with all around them, a day
of rejoicing, and they began to make merry with their friends; while their
parents partook in their enjoyment with a smile, half of approval and half
Twelve years had passed away;
Christmas had again come. It was the counterpart of its fatal predecessor.
The hills had not yet cast off their summer verdure; the sun, although
shorn of its heat, had lost none of his brightness or glory, and looked
down upon the earth as though participating in its gladness; and the clear
blue sky was tranquil as the sea sleeping beneath the moon. Many visitors
had again assembled at Marchlaw. The sons of Mr. Elliot, and the young men
of the party, were assembled upon a level green near the house, amusing
themselves with throwing the hammer and other Border games, while himself
and the elder guests stood by as spectators, recounting the deeds of their
youth. Johnson, the sheep-farmer, whom we have already mentioned, now a
brawny and gigantic fellow of two-and-thirty, bore away in every game the
palm from all competitors. More than once, as Peter beheld his sons
defeated, he felt the spirit of youth glowing in his veins, and, "Oh!"
muttered he in bitterness, "had my Thomas been spared to me, he would hae
thrown his heart’s bluid after the hammer before he would hae been beat by
e’er a Johnson in the country!"
While he thus soliloquised, and with
difficulty restrained an impulse to compete with the victor himself, a
dark, foreign-looking, strong-built seaman, unceremoniously approached,
and, with his arms folded, cast a look of contempt upon the boasting
conqueror. Every eye was turned with a scrutinising glance upon the
stranger. In height he could not exceed five feet nine, but his whole
frame was the model of muscular strength; his features were open and
manly, but deeply sunburnt and weather-beaten; his long glossy black hair,
curled into ringlets by the breeze and the billow, fell thickly over his
temples and forehead; and whiskers of a similar hue, more conspicuous for
size than elegance, gave a character of fierceness to a countenance
otherwise possessing a striking impress of manly beauty. Without asking
permission, he stepped forward, lifted the hammer, and swinging it around
his head, hurled it upwards of five yards beyond Johnson’s most successful
throw. "Well done!" shouted the astonished spectators. The heart of Peter
Elliot warmed within him, and he was hurrying forward to grasp the
stranger by the hand, when the words groaned in his throat, "It was just
such a throw as my Thomas would have made !—my own lost Thomas!" The tears
burst into his eyes, and without speaking, he turned back, and hurried
towards the house, to conceal his emotion.
Successively at every game, the stranger had defeated
all who ventured to oppose him; when a messenger announced that dinner
waited their arrival. Some of the guests were already seated, others
entering; and, as heretofore, placed beside Mrs. Elliot, was Elizabeth
Bell, still in the noontide of her beauty; but sorrow had passed over her
features, like a veil before the countenance of an angel. Johnson,
crestfallen and out of humour at his defeat, seated himself by her side.
In early life he had regarded Thomas Elliot as a rival for her affections;
and, stimulated by the knowledge that Adam Bell would be able to bestow
several thousands upon his daughter for a dowry, he yet prosecuted his
attentions with unabated assiduity, in despite of the daughter’s aversion
and the coldness of her father. Peter had taken his place at the table;
and still by his side, unoccupied and sacred, appeared the vacant chair,
the chair of his first-born, whereon none had sat since his mysterious
death or disappearance.
"Bairns," said she, "did nane o' ye ask the sailor to
come up and tak’ a bit o’ dinner wi’ us?"
"We were afraid it might lead to a quarrel with Mr.
Johnson," whispered one of the sons.
"He is come without asking," replied the stranger,
entering; "and the wind shall blow from a new point if I destroy the mirth
or happiness of the company."
"Ye’re a stranger, young man," said Peter, "or ye would
ken this is no a meeting o’ mirth-makers. But, I assure ye, ye are
welcome, heartily welcome. Haste ye, lasses," he added to the servants;
"some o’ ye get a chair for the gentleman."
"Gentleman, indeed!" muttered Johnson between his
"Never mind about a chair, my hearties," said the
seaman; "this will do !" And before Peter could speak to withhold him, he
had thrown himself carelessly into the hallowed, the venerated, the
twelve-years-unoccupied chair! The spirit of sacrilege uttering
blasphemies from a pulpit could not have smitten a congregation of pious
worshippers with deeper horror and consternation than did this filling of
the vacant chair the inhabitants of Marchlaw.
"Excuse me, Sir! excuse me, Sir!" said Peter, the words
trembling upon his tongue; "but ye cannot sit there !"
"O man, man!" cried Mrs. Elliot, "get out o’ that! get
out o’ that!—take my chair! take ony chair i’ the house!—but dinna, .dinna
sit there! It has never been sat in by mortal being since the death o’ my
dear bairn!—and to see it filled by another is a thing that I canna endure
"Sir! Sir !" continued the father, "ye have done it
through ignorance, and we excuse ye. But that was my Thomas’s seat! Twelve
years this very day—his birthday— he perished, heaven kens how! He went
out from our sight, like the cloud that passes over the hills—never— never
to return. And O, Sir, spare a faither’s feelings! for to see it filled
wrings the blood from my heart!"
"Give me your hand, my worthy soul!" exclaimed the
seaman; "I revere—nay, hang it! I would die for your feelings! But Tom
Elliot was my friend, and I cast anchor in this chair by special
commission. I know that a sudden broadside of joy is a bad thing; but, as
I don’t know how to preach a sermon before telling you, all I have to say
is— that Tom an’t dead."
"Not dead!" said Peter, grasping the hand of the
stranger, and speaking with an eagerness that almost choked his utterance;
"O Sir! Sir! tell me how !—how !—Did ye say living ?—Is my ain Thomas
"Not dead, do ye say ?" cried Mrs. Elliot, hurrying
towards him and grasping his other hand—"not dead! And shall I see my
bairn again? Oh! may the blessing o’ Heaven, and the blessing o’ a
broken-hearted mother be upon the bearer o’ the gracious tidings! But tell
me—tell me! how is it possible? As ye would expect happiness here or
hereafter, dinna, dinna deceive me !"
"Deceive you!" returned the stranger, grasping, with
impassioned earnestness, their hands in his—" Never!— never! and all I can
say is—Tom Elliot is alive and hearty."
"No, no !" said Elizabeth, rising from her seat, "he
does not deceive us; there is that in his countenance which bespeaks a
falsehood impossible." And she also endeavoured to move towards him, when
Johnson threw his arm around her to withhold her.
"Hands off, you land-lubber!" exclaimed the seaman,
springing towards them, "or shiver me! I’ll show daylight through your
timbers in the turning of a handspike !" And clasping the lovely girl in
his arms, "Betty! Betty, my love !" he cried, "don’t you know your own
Tom? Father, mother, don’t you know me? Have you really forgot your own
son? If twelve years have made some change on his face, his heart is as
sound as ever."
His father, his mother, and his brothers, clung around
him, weeping, smiling, and mingling a hundred questions together. He threw
his arms around the neck of each, and in answer to their inquiries,
replied—"Well, well, there is time enough to answer questions, but not
"No, my bairn," said his mother, we’ll ask you no
questions—nobody shall ask you any; but how—how were ye torn away from us,
my love? And, O hinny! where— where hae ye been?"
"It is a long story, mother," said he, "and would take
a week to tell it. But howsoever, to make a long story short, you remember
when the smugglers were pursued, and wished to conceal their brandy in our
house, my father prevented them; they left muttering revenge—and they have
been revenged. This day twelve years, I went out with the intention of
meeting Elizabeth and her father, when I came upon a party of the gang
concealed in Hell’s Hole. In a moment half a dozen pistols were held to my
breast, and, tying my hands to my sides, they dragged me into the cavern.
Here I had not been long their prisoner, when the snow, rolling down the
mountains, almost totally blocked up its mouth. On the second night, they
cut through the snow, and, hurrying me along with them, I was bound to a
horse between two, and before daylight found myself stowed, like a piece
of old junk, in the hold of a smuggling lugger. Within a week I was
shipped on board a Dutch man-of-war, and for six years was kept dodging
about on different stations, till our old yawing hulk received orders to
join the fleet which was to fight against the gallant Duncan at Camperdown.
To think of fighting against my own countrymen, my own flesh and blood,
was worse than to be cut to pieces by a cat-o’-nine-tails; and, under
cover of the smoke of the first broadside, I sprang upon the gunwale,
plunged into the sea, and swam for the English fleet. Never, never shall I
forget the moment that my feet first trod upon the deck of a British
frigate! My nerves felt as firm as her oak, and my heart free as the
pennant that waved defiance from her masthead. I was as active as any one
during the battle; and, when it was over, and I found myself again among
my own countrymen, and all speaking my own language, I fancied—nay, sang
it! I almost believed—I should meet my father, my mother, or my dear Bess,
on board of the British frigate. I expected to see you all again in a few
weeks at farthest; but, instead of returning to Old England, before I was
aware, I found it was helm about with us. As to writing, I never had an
opportunity but once. We were anchored before a French fort; a packet was
lying alongside ready to sail; I had half a side written, and was
scratching my head to think how I should come over writing about you,
Bess, my love, when, as bad luck would have it, our lieutenant comes to
me, and says he, ‘Elliot,’ says he,. ‘I know you like a little smart
service; come, my lad, take the head oar, while we board some of those
French bumboats under the batteries!’ I couldn’t say no. We pulled ashore,
made a bonfire of one of their craft, and were setting fire to a second,
when a dewily shower of small shot from the garrison scuttled our boat,
killed our commanding officer, with half of the crew, and the few who were
left of us were made prisoners. It is of no use bothering you by telling
how we escaped from a French prison. We did escape; and Tom will once more
fill his vacant chair.
Should any of our readers wish farther acquaintance
with our friends, all we say is, the new year was still young when Adam
Bell bestowed his daughter’s hand upon the heir of Marchlaw, and Peter
beheld the once vacant chair again occupied, and a namesake of the third
generation prattling on his knee.
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