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Wilson's Border Tales
The Minister's Daughter

Chapter 1


Lives there a man who calls his heart his own,
Can look on ripening beauty’s breathing eye—
The breast of snow—love’s altar and its throne—
The lips round which sweet smiles and graces fly—
The more than sculptured elegance—the tone
Of loveliness and health, whose vermil dye
Is with the early lily blent on cheeks
Whose very blush of love and conquest speaks.

Say, is there one on these can fondly gaze,
Nor feel his heart turn rebel to his will;
Till all that charmed is changed—the voice of praise—
The smile of friends, his haunts by wood or hill,
The sports, the joys, the all of early days,
Have lost their music; and he gazeth still
Upon the fair enchantress—changer-—all!
Till she, too, changed, shall on his bosom fall.

Burnpath was a small fishing village in the south of Scotland, of which, many years ago, a Mr. Robertson was minister. He had a daughter of great beauty, whose name was Mary. It was October, and there had been a wreck upon the coast during the night. By daybreak, old and young were upon the beach. Amongst them was Mary Robertson. She came upon the seeming lifeless body of a youth, who, by his dress, appeared to be an officer. She bent over him. She fancied there was still warmth at his heart. She called for help, and bearing him to her father’s house, within an hour animation was restored.

On the following morning, Mr. Robertson led into the breakfast parlour, a noble-looking young midshipman. Youthful enthusiasm, sadness, and gratitude, appeared blended on his features. His eyes were of a deep and piercing black; at first sight almost unpleasantly so, seeming to search the very thoughts of those on whom he looked. But his countenance was animated and expressive; and his bright brown hair fell carelessly, in thick natural curls, over a broad and open brow. His stature somewhat exceeded the middle size; and his person, though not inelegant, was rather robust than handsome; while his age could not exceed five and twenty. Mutual congratulations were exchanged; and he had been seated but a few minutes, when Mary placed a small pocket Bible in his hands. He glanced at her for a moment, almost unmeaningly; and opened it with a look of perplexed curiosity. When the Psalm commenced, he seemed surprised and startled at the affinity it and the chapter which was read by Mary bore to his own situation. He appeared puzzled, confounded, interested; and, when they knelt in prayer, he looked round in embarrassment, as one who wist not what to do. He was evidently a stranger to such things. Of the prayer he knew not what to think. He was at once pleased, overpowered, and offended.

"It may be all very good," said he to himself; "but it is scarce civil to call a gentleman a sinner to his face! He is very anxious about my spiritual state to day, but my body might have perished for him yesterday, had not that glorious creature exerted herself."

While he thus thought, he gazed obliquely on her kneeling form, his head resting on his hand, with his face turned toward the chair where she knelt, till his gaze became rivetted—his thoughts absorbed; and, as she, with her father, rose, he started to his feet, and, almost unconscious of what had passed, looked round in ill-disguised bewilderment.

Leaving him, however, to overcome his confusion, we shall introduce our readers to what we know of his family.

Henry Walton—for so, in future, we shall designate him—was the only son of Sir Robert Walton, in the county of Devon. Sir Robert was proud of his son, and loved him second only to his bottle, his chestnut hunter, and his hounds, or, rather, he loved them less, but thought of them more.

"Bravo! Hal is father’s better," said he; "there goes a chip of the old block !" as Henry cleared a five-barred gate, or brought down a pigeon on the wing with a bullet. Not that he would have risen a shade in the esteem of the Baronet, had he carried in his head the wisdom of Greece and the eloquence of Rome. All oratory was alike to him, save the "sound of the bugle horn." Henry, however, had other qualifications, which were a theme of continued praise with his father. He was a keen sportsman—a dead shot; and, when but nineteen, disguised as a countryman, he had attended the annual "revel" at Ashburton, where his father presided as umpire, and was to bestow five guineas, from his own purse, on the victor wrestler. Having inserted a fictitious name upon the lists, he entered the ring, and alternately threw his three brawny opponents two fair back-falls each, amidst the deafening shouts of all the strong men in Devonshire. He now approached, hanging his head, toward his father, to receive the extended reward.

"Swinge! look up, man!" vociferated Sir Robert, in the excess of his admiration, accompanying the request with a hearty slap on the shoulder; "Swinge! I say, look up, man for thou’st a good un!"

Henry bowed, and, without speaking, retired with the purse; and, to increase the astonishment of the spectators, divided its contents among the three chopfallen, and, in truth, not over pleasant-looking antagonists he had vanquished. At this act of generosity, the Devonians shouted and bellowed forth their lusty and reiterated applause, as if determined to shake down the sun from the heavens, to crown the brows of the conqueror. Sir Robert shouted louder than the loudest—rushed into the ring—grasped the hand of the victor, and shook it with an honest enthusiasm that would have relieved a more delicate hand from the future trouble of wearing fingers.

"Faith, and dang it!" said he, "and thou art a good un. Now, for that same, instead of five guineas, here are ten for thee. But, why, man, look up, and let us see thy face, and pull off thy nightcap."

So saying, he, without ceremony, unfastened a napkin Henry had bound around his head, to aid his concealment.

"Swinge! what!" shouted Sir Robert—"my own son! my own Hal! father’s better!—O Lord! O Lord!"

He danced in the extreme of ecstasy, and hugged him furiously to his heart, till he who had overthrown three, fell beneath the muscular embrace of his father.

Henry’s grandfather, after living forty years in the unnatural and unsocial state by some called single blessedness, and remaining proof against the shafts of blind gods and bright-eyed divinities, found his philosophy disturbed by the laughing face, the exquisite neck, and the well-rounded arm of a pretty hay-maker, who was a parish apprentice to one of his own tenants. Blue eyes, auburn locks, and a waist symmetry itself, (for it, too, had arrested the admiration of the bachelor), are not to be trifled with in a hay-field in a glowing day in June, when the melting fragrance smells to heaven, the lark pours down the full tide of melody and affection over the nest of his delighted and listening mate, and the very butterflies pursue each other, flutter, shake their downy wings, and wanton love in the dreamy air! If a bachelor will go abroad on such a day, he should lock up his heart in his writing-desk. But our old baronet, never having made the discovery that he was in possession of one, overlooked this precaution--

"Gazed on the fair
Who caused his care,
And sighed and looked, sighed and looked,
Sighed and looked, and sighed again;"

till the whole group of curtsying haymakers burst into a titter at the confusion of his Honour. He shortly found means to declare his passion, though it is true he never dreamed of marriage: but the fair maiden dreamed of nothing else; and, to the astonishment of her wealthy lover, would hear of nothing else. Therefore, Susan Prescott became Lady Walton, and, in due time, the mother of Sir Robert.

Within two years after their marriage, the Baronet dropped from his chair, without drawing the cork of his third bottle, in a fit—which Lady Walton could not remember the name of! She wept, like a dutiful widow, over her husband; who, having a constitutional terror of the thought of death, (though by no means a coward), had ever banished every thing that tended to remind him of mortality; and thereby dying without a will, left the future guardianship and education of Sir Robert to his mother. She had, indeed, had fifty tutors, as she said, superintending the studies of the young heir of the Priory; for none staid beyond a month, and she assured them—"She would allow no such hungry nothings to contradict her Bobby, who was a good scholar, and mother’s darling."

For the little, therefore, that Sir Robert did know, he was more indebted to natural quickness, and the occasional lessons of the vicar, who forced them upon him in defiance of his mother’s displeasure, than to his fifty tutors.

On the year after his coming of age, in despite of the tears and upbraidings of Lady Walton, Sir Robert ordered his travelling carriage, his double-barrelled fowling-pieces, and all the et ceteras of a sporting campaign; and left the "garden and watering-place of England," (as its inhabitants call it, and with some cause), for a shooting excursion on the moors of Scotland. Against this journey his mother wept, prayed, and protested; but her tears, her entreaties, and protestations were lost upon her son; who, after seeing his pack properly packed up, sprang into his carriage, whistling

"Over the hills and far awa,"

with a suddenness and a weight that made the wheels creak and the horses stagger; while her Ladyship kept thrusting beneath his feet bundles of stockings, flannels, and dreadnoughts, sufficient for a Greenland voyage, or a North West passage—"Quite certain," as she said, poor soul, and sobbing as she said it, while she scrambled up to the carriage for another parting kiss, "that her dear Bobby would be frozen to death, that he would, in that cold outlandish country! But they could expect no better who would not take a mother’s advice."

"Good-bye, mother!" cried Sir Robert. Crack went the whip—whir went the wheels—the horses tossed their heads—the hounds raised a farewell note—and away went the baronet, with a sound heart and light, to the hills of "bonny Scotland."

The shooting season had but commenced, Sir Robert had been but a few days in the Highlands, when he became acquainted with a brother sportsman. Major Cameron was a hardy, weather-beaten veteran, who had only his half-pay to live upon, with his honest scars, and the blood of Lochiel in his veins, to boast of. He had been distinguished as a fearless and able officer, was possessed of considerable shrewdness, and his knowledge, if not deep, was general. He had had a dream of ambition in his youth; but a Majority, with permission to retire on half-pay—and, more than these, the death of a beloved wife, with the education and care of an only daughter—dispelled the enchantment. He now rented a beautiful cottage, and a few surrounding acres in the neighbourhood of Inverness.

Shortly after their acquaintance, the Major—though certainly not struck with the attainments of the young baronet, yet pleased with his constant good humour, his love of sport, and, perhaps (but we can’t tell), not overlooking his fortune and his own daughter—invited him to his house. The simple elegance of Miss Cameron’s household startled Sir Robert. She, too, stood before him in all the glory of young womanhood. To say that she was beautiful, is to say the least that we could say. Her person was tall, graceful, and commanding; and her mind adorned, not merely with ornamental, but domestic accomplishments. It is true her father, though a good soldier, a good citizen, and an indulgent parent, had no fixed or guiding principle of religion. He believed himself a Christian; but he was one of those who do not make their religion the rule of their life; and under such a teacher, while she received a high sense of honour and a pure morality; her religion, like that of many others, consisted in attending the church, and finished with the service.

To think of a warm-hearted, unsophisticated young fellow like Sir Robert, holding out against the artillery of her eyes for a week, were as impossible as to suspend the earth from a packthread! He looked—that is to say, he looked as stupid--as people generally do when the eyes have to perform the office of the tongue. Within a fortnight, the young sportsman bade good-bye to the moors. His game lay in the Major’s cottage. His blood rose to a fever-heat without Lady Walton’s flannels. Twenty times in the twenty four hours he sighed, looked in her face, and said, "Miss Cameron!" looked to the ground again, and said no more. And when, at length, the Major railed him on letting the shooting season slip—"Why, dang it, d’ye see, Major," said he, "I came here to shoot, and I’ve got shot myself! So, if thou art my friend, now or never ask Miss Cameron."

The Major had already reasoned that he must die and leave his daughter unprovided for, and an orphan. The thought cut him to the heart. It had often cost him tears. The baronet was rather ignorant, but he was good-natured. It was evident he loved his daughter—she might instruct him. He was rich; he had influence—the Major might yet obtain a regiment!

"Yes, yes," said the veteran to himself, "she must— Jess shall marry the Englishman."

Miss Jess Cameron was sufficiently aware of the state of her lover’s heart, not to be surprised by her father’s announcement of his wishes, and, having weighed the matter much in the same manner, with the additional reflection that Sir Robert was a handsome fellow—though rather huge withal—she blushed a soft consent; and the marriage articles being agreed to, signed, and sealed, before brown

October had run its course, the travelling carriage containing Sir Robert, his lady, and father-in-law, was again on its way to Buckham Priory.

On their arrival, the then dowager Lady Walton grew pale—then all the hues of the rainbow—and finally settled into a bursting red.

"Lady Walton!—Lady Walton, indeed!" she repeated, and wrung her hands; till "Lady Walton!" was heard in every room of the Priory.

"Two Lady Waltons in one house!" she again cried, and flew to her bottle for consolation. Cider had been her favourite beverage; but, continuing to mix it too strongly with brandy, in a few years after this proof of her son’s disobedience, the good lady went out of this world with nearly as little ceremony as her dear deceased husband.

Previous to his being sent to the university, Henry’s studies were anxiously directed by his excellent mother and grandfather; while his father took upon him the guidance of his bodily exercises. He had now been about four years in the navy. Sir Robert swore, "Hal was not father’s son, in making choice of such a profession." His mother would rather he had chosen the army, while his grandfather sighed and wondered at his taste. Such, at this period of our story were the inhabitants of the Priory; whom having introduced to our readers, we proceed with our narrative.

Return we now to the Manse. Burnpath was a beautiful, though irregular little village, lying, perhaps, a quarter of a mile (we cannot speak to a measured certainty) from the sea. The long, bleak, dark ridge of Lammermuir smiled into fertility, as its eastern boundary descended towards the kirk. A young forest of pines spread proudly over the surrounding hills. A wimpling burn, which, at times, assumed the airs of a cataract, ran in manifold and antic windings through a steep ravine, or rather chasm, in the mountains that stretched back into the desert. The brook imitated, as it neared the sea, the importance of a river, and separated the Manse from the village. A wooden deal, resting on the opposite banks, served as a bridge during a flood; and, in summer, four large stones, about three feet apart, answered all the purposes of a ferry.

We have already said the Manse looked to the sea. It was a dark, dingy looking house—old, black, and solid; with deep, narrow, castellated windows; and huge, massy chimneys, rising like staircases from its foundations, on the outside of each gable. It was surrounded by a clump of oaks, and thin, dry, aged firs, the extremities of which had forgotten the seasons. Several were broken and branchless and two uprooted by the late storm. The tombs joined with a corner of the building. The owl already shrieked on the eaves for its midnight meal; and the daw perched on the roof of the anticipated ruin. The bat wheeled around it undisturbed; and the villagers, though accustomed to its gloom, felt loneliness creep through their flesh as they approached it after twilight. The house had no evil name; but situation is everything (as landlords say), and the Manse had an evil situation.

The picture. however, had two lights. Before it, lay a sloping garden, disposed and pruned by the hand of taste; and from its highest elevation its shadow was seen sleeping in the deeps of the quiet sea. Around it spread the purple hills; and, with the breeze that swept down their heathery sides, bearing health upon its bosom, mingled the notes of the shepherd’s flute and the bleating of his flocks. There, too, amidst the young pines, the wild dove welcomed the spring, the lark filled the air with music, and the linnet trilled its artless note from the yellow whins. Within, the fire of comfort blazed, and the eye of affection beamed. Such was the village of Burnpath, and its Manse.

Mr. Robertson felt for Henry a feeling of admiration and pity. He admired his ardent and enthusiastic spirit—he pitied its recklessness. He admired the fervid brilliancy of his imagination—he lamented its objects. He admired the warmth and intensity of his feelings, the extent of his knowledge, and the clearness of his understanding—while, to use his own words, he pitied his ignorance of the knowledge which alone maketh rich unto salvation. These sentiments, with a pious and an anxious wish that he might be instrumental in awakening within him a concern for his future welfare, induced him to solicit Henry to remain for several weeks beneath his hospitable roof. The invitation was accepted, with a rapture that might have betrayed other feelings than gratitude; but this Mr. Robertson attributed to the warmth of his young friend’s disposition, Mary, too heard the proposal made and accepted, with a delight which she strove not to disguise. Melancholy passed from her brow, a smile played upon her cheeks, and a tear—no, it could not be called a tear—it was a drop of joy—of—but no matter. Henry was by her side—he had taken her hand—she offered not to withdraw it. He said nothing—there was no need to say anything. It was mere congratulation at the prospect of his remaining a few weeks longer Mary thought that was her meaning; it was, doubtless, Henry’s also; and her father thought so, too.

About twelve weeks had passed. Henry felt exquisitely happy. Mr. Robertson’s prayers had become quite delightful; for then he could take long deep draughts of—he scarce knew what—on the lovely form that knelt by his side, save when she, too, stole a sidelong glance, and their eyes met—were withdrawn—and both blushed—blushed, it may be, at their want of devotion. Nevertheless, Henry was happy; Mary was happy, too. Happiness is contagious: her father grew cheerful and jocular. He was convinced Henry was becoming religious.


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