The Minister's Daughter
The sea is silent, and the winds of
Stir not its waters; on its voiceless waves
Thick darkness presses as a mighty load,
Weighing their strength to slumber. Oer earths graves
The lonely stars are dreaming; and the wind,
Benighted on the desert, howls to find
Its trackless path, as would a dying hound.
The thick clouds, wearied with their course all day.
Repose, like shrouded ghosts, on the black air;
Or in the darkness, having lost their way,
Await the dawn! Tis midnight reigns around
Midnight, when crime and murder quit their lair;
Their footsteps, like their consciencevoid of sound;
Their mission, bloodtheir recompense, despair!
hourmidnight was past; Mr. Cuthbertson still roamed disconsolate through
the parlour, at times uttering a low, bitter sort of howl; and the wind
howled still more disconsolately through the old firs: but Mr. Robertson
returned not. Mary had sunk into a slumber, and Janet crept softly down
stairs to inform her master.
"Is Mr Robertson not here,
sir?" inquired she, addressing Mr. Cuthbertson.
He looked at his watch. His
own feelings were instantly swallowed up in anxiety for his friend.
"Preserve us!" he
exclaimed"it is one oclock and six hours since he gaed to the moors,
after the author o a our sorrows. What can hae come owre him? Janet,
haste ye cry up the callant; fetch me my cloak; and well awa seek for
Janet hurried to execute
his orders; and in a few minutes Mr. Cuthbertson and the ministers boy
left the house. For three hours they continued their fruitless search upon
the moor. They were now near the cottage of an aged widow, whom Henry and
Mary were wont to visit. A light glimmered through the solitary pane; and,
as they approached it, a murmuring sound fell upon their ears.
"Wheesht, dinna mak a
noise," whispered Mr. Cuthbertson, shaking as he spoke.
Glancing through the little
window, they perceived Henry Walton bending over the fire. His face was
pale and agitated. There was blood upon his brow; and as he stretched out
his hand to stir the decaying embers, it appeared red and trembling. Mr.
Cuthbertsons hair stood erect. He placed his finger upon the boys lips,
and stole cautiously from the cottage. When at the distance of a hundred
yard he looked cautiously behind and around him; then said, in a deep
whisper, while every joint shook"Did you see the blood! He has murdered
They reached the Manse, and
communicating their fearful discovery to Janet, spoke of obtaining a
warrant for Henrys apprehension.
The 5th of January dawned;
but for a bridal it brought blood. Marys senses were returned, but she
knew not of Henrys departure, nor the absence of her father.
"Janet," said she, "send my
Henry to me. If we have sinned against my father, we will now kneel
together at his feet for his forgiveness! I will water them with my tears.
He could never behold me weep; and he will not now spurn his poor child
from his presence. Go, Janet, go! I cannot live unless we obtain his
Janet turned away and wept.
She sighed, "My poor ruined bairn!" and hid her face against the wall.
"O Janet!" said Mary, "will
you too hide your face from me! Forgive me, Janetforgive your poor Mary!
If I have given offence to my father, I should have sinned against heaven
in marrying Mr. Cuthbertson; for would it not be sinful to give the hand
to one, while the heart clings to another? Come, Janet, do not turn from
me. My father will bless usMr. Cuthbertson himself will pardon us.
Go call my Henry."
"The wretch is not here!"cried Janet, in the transpor of her feelings; "and, oh, that the sea
had swallowed him! --or buried you baith in its bosomthat I should say
sucha word!before I had lived to see my Mary the wife of abut
it shanna be spoken by me! -- O Mary! Marymay heaven hold ye guiltless!"
grasping her hand, "have I merited this language?or whatJanet--.what is
its meaning? You tremble! Speak, Janet!speak!"
At that moment, a sound of
voices was heard without, Mary glanced from the window; and beheld the
mangled and bleeding body of her father, borne on the shoulders of a group
of villagers! She gave but one scream!but one thought flashed through her
bosom. It was that she was a wife, the wife of a murderer!of the murderer
of her father!and Janet caught her in her arms.
Mr. Robertson was
senseless, but his eyes still moved; and there was a quivering motion
about his breast. His wounds were dressed by the village surgeon, Mr.
Leslie, but his recovery was pronounced impossible. Mr. Cuthbertson and
the boy had whispered their suspicions to the villagers; and their fears
augmented their evidence of Henrys guilt. A party, who were despatched to
the widows to secure him, returned without procuring any farther trace of
him. That Henry had committed the deed, no one but the surgeon
aforementioned entertained a doubt.
As Mary recovered, she cast
a chilling glance of despair upon old Janet. A few tears followed--they
were but a few; and dashing them away"Follow me, Janet!"said she,
calmly, but sternly. The old woman obeyed, with a fearful and mechanical
motion, as deprived of power to resist the command. She entered the
apartment where her father lay. Mr. Leslie watched anxiously over him;
while Mr. Cuthbertson, and three or four villagers, conversed in deep
whispers in a corner of the room. They fell back at her approach. The
kindest-hearted gazed on her with horror. The boldest shuddered, and
avoided the touch of her garments. Every bosom was filled with dark
thoughts; but none dared to whisper them in her presence. At the accusing
glance of her tearless eyes, they crowded closer together. She approached
the bed where her father lay, bent for a moment over his body, kissed his
pale forehead, and, without a word, without a sigh, sat down by his side.
The surgeon took her hand.
"Be comforted," said he
"your father will yet be able to explain all; and whoever is guilty, it
will not be as some have said, and perhaps wish." And he cast an
upbraiding glance towards Mr. Cuthbertson.
"What do ye mean, Doctor?"inquired Mr. Cuthbertson vehemently, and with a degree of indignation
of which, to do him justice, he was seldom criminal. "What do you mean,
Doctor?"he repeated, raising his voice. God forbid that I should
wish the blood of a worm to lie at the door of my deadliest enemy! I have
but gien evidence and testimony of the scenes and of the blood of which I
was a witiessevidence, sir, that has convinced every weel-disposed mind,
but your ain; which, it is weel kenned, bears the mark of the beast, and
the image of the suspected persons! And could I, Doctor, could I see the
blood of my best friend--the blood of my mair than faitheron the face and
the hands of his murderer, and not give evidence to the truth?"
Mr. Leslie would have
replied or ordered all, from the privilege of his profession, to withdraw.
But Mary had rivetted her eyes upon the speaker. When he concluded, she
arose, walked firmly across the floor to where he stood, and darting upon
him a glance that struck dismay into his heart, and to the hearts of
all"Tell me, accusing spirit," she said, in a voice clear and slow, but
dreadful and piercing as itswonted sounds were melodious, "tell me
by what right ye accuse my husband?"
She had never heard Henry
named as being guilty; and her fearful interrogation, the vehemence with
which it was uttered, the absence of a single tear or a sighof anything
like a womans or a daughters griefclang like icicles to the hearts of
all present. And she, whom yesterday they regarded as not inferior to an
angel, they now shrank from as the wife of a murderer; nor merely his
wife, but his accomplicehis accomplice in the murder of her own father!
Overpowered by the conviction, one by one, they slunk fearful from her
sight. Each, in his own way, told his suspicions; and, before night, the
gentle Mary Robertson was whispered of with horror; yea, tongues that in
the morning blest her, trembled to pronounce her name.
Although Mr Cuthbertson did
not participate in the idle suspicions of those around him regarding her,
yet awed by her appalling look, the unearthly earnestness of her tone and
manner, united with the almost horrible calmness of her sorrow, he stood
silent, quaking in her presence;and as she cast upon him a deadly
glance of accusation and, scorn, he also shrank from the room with the
Mary again took her seat by
the bedside. Night came, and the morning dawned; and day succeeded day,
but still she sat silent, motionless, and tearless; her cheeks pale and
emaciated, watching as a spirit by the bed of death. Buried in her own
griefs, her eyes fixed upon her fathers face, sleep approached her not;
of food she was almost unconscious when presented; and consolation fell
upon her ears as on a lifeless thing. Life had, indeed, returned to her
father; but, with it, reason had fled. Ignorant of all around him, he now
fancied himself surrounded by his wife and his children. He spoke to them;
he called them by their names. The follies, and the glad days of youth,
passed in array before him. Then would he call upon his Mary, his poor
lost Mary! With him she was the infantthe darlingthe pride of his
age--and the ruined wife, within an hour. Again would he weep, raise his
hands to bless her, burst into a loud laugh in the midst of his blessing,
and cry"The murderers!"and in the same breath, "Your husband
Mary!" Still her features moved not, and her eyes were dry as summer heat.
The wild ravings of Mr.
Robertson tended to strengthen the conviction of Mr. Cuthbertson and his
friends, of the certainty of Henrys guilt; and the circumstances,
augmented by all that indignation and personal suffering could suggest,
were transmitted to his family at Buckham Priory.
Still Mr. Leslie would
admit of no steps for his apprehension; declaring that, although the life
of Mr. Robertson was beyond hope, yet, as the fever abated, a lucid
interval would take place before death, when the facts of the melancholy
event might be learned from himself. Mr. Leslie and Mary were, therefore,
the only individuals ignorant of the ntelligence sent to the Priory; and,
for many days, with but momentary intermission, he continued by the bed of
the sufferer, eager to catch the first word of certainty regarding the
innocence or guilt of his unhappy friend. Mary sat beside him as a pale
ghost: she was neither heard to breathe nor seen to move; but gazed, the
skeleton of what she was, on her dying parent.
He had sunk into a long and
undisturbed sleep; and Mr. Leslie having announced that when he awoke, his
reason would have returned, Mr. Cuthbertson, Janet, and three of the kirk
elders, were anxiously waiting in the room. He atlength awoke,
and, with a fond, but feeble voice, cried"Mary!my child!"
Every ear was strained to
listenevery eye turned to the bed. She started from her long, death-like
trance, and threw her arms around his neck.
"My father!" she cried
wildly, and pressed her lips to his. They were the first words she had
spoken since demanding of Mr. Cuthbertson why he accused her husband.
"My dear Mary!" said he, "I
feel I have but a few minutes to live. Call your Henry, that I may obtain
his forgivenessthat you both may receive the blessing of a dying father!
My dear, dear child!" he added, and endeavoured to press her to his
She started to his embrace.
The tears burst in torrents from her eyes. A loud laugh rang through the
room! She threw herself upon the bed, and cried"Am I not the wife of a
murderer! My father!sayis not your Mary the wife of her fathers Tell
metell me!are the hands of my Henry clean?shall I behold him again?
Speak! Oh, speak, my father!"
"Your Henry! my beloved
child!" said he; "no! no! where is my son?"
Mr. Cuthbertson hung his
head in confusion. The elders looked upon him upbraidingly, and pressed
closer to their minister.
Mr. Robertson now briefly
received from Mr. Leslie an account of the suspicions that rested upon
Henry, and their cause. He begged to be raised upon his bed; and throwing
his feeble arm around his daughter, said"Forgive me my dear childforgive
your dying father; and, when you meet your Henry, obtain me also his
forgiveness. Two men sprang upon me on the heath. I cried to heaven for
help; for I thought not that man could hear me. I was wounded, cruelly
wounded, when my cries brought a stranger to my assistance! He closed with
the unhappy men, and by their cries appeared to overpower them. I heard
his voiceit was Henrys!my child, your injured husbands! I endeavoured
to flywhere I ran I know not, I rushed bleeding over the heaththe earth
seemed turning with meand I remember nothing until this hour. And now I
feel that death is with me! My friendsfarewell!"
He took Mr. Cuthbertsons
hand"Be a father to my dear child! Best, generous friendbear Henry your
forgiveness, and my blessing!" He pressed his daughter for the last time
to his bosom"God of the orphan, protect my Mary! Farewell!my childmy
They raised her from his
breast; but his spirit had passed into the presence of him who gave it.
Mary fell upon her knees; she raised her eyes to Heaven. The sealed up
fountains of her heart gushed out afresh; and destroying joy held conflict
with bitter agony, bereavement, and sorrow.
Weeks passed ona successor to Mr.
Robertson was already nominated. Materials were placed around the Manse in
order to its undergoing improvements for his reception. To Mary they were
a renewal of griefs: and at times she almost regarded them as an insult to
her sorrows. She had now to leave the hearth where her first smile of
infancy was greeted by a parents kiss. The furniture being to her
unnecessary, and not knowing where to remove it, she felt compelled to
announce it for sale. Previously, she had sent her fathers books as a
present to Mr. Cuthbertson. On the day of sale, many attended to procure a
remembrance of a man whose memory they esteemed. A stranger, however,
whose motive appeared a determination to secure all, with out regard to
the value, was the sole purchaser. Many surmises were whispered round
regarding him; but he was unknown to all. On several of the carts,
however, in which the goods were conveyed away, appeared the words
"Thomas Cuthbertson, Esq., Cuthbertson Lodge."
Mary left the Manse on the
preceding day, and remained an inmate with a farmer in the neighbourhood.
She crossed the little wooden bridge in calm resignation, her eyes fixed
upon the ground, and fearful to cast a look behind. But Janet followed and
wept. On the third morning after leaving the Manse"Janet," said Mary,
"business of importance calls me immediately to England. At this season,
and at your years, it will be impossible you can accompany me. In a few
monthsI hopeI trust, Janet, your Mary will be able to send for
you again. In the meantime, at Mr. Cuthbertsons you will find a homein
him a friend. I have prepared you a conveyance, and must myself depart
"Oh! dinna speak ot!dinna
think ot, my dear bairn!" cried Janet"what is there in the season, or
what is there in the distance, that I am na able to follow ye? Can ye
think that I wad see you, you a young an unprotected cratur, gang hunders
an hunders o miles, wi naebody to look after yenaebody to gie ye an
advice! O Mary, neither you nor ane o your faithers house ever refused
me a favour that I askedan it surely winna be my ain Mary that will deny
me, in a case like this, an for her ain guid? Dinna think o leavin me
Mary threw her arms around
her neck. "Distress me not, Janet!" cried she, "It is impossible you can
accompany me. But we shall meet again."
Janet knew not the
forebodings that distressed the mind of her young mistress, nor suspected
the romantic and desperate nature of her journey.
"How can it be impossible?"
continued she, "O my bairn, how can it be impossible? But if it be His
will that we maim part, oh, it may be only for a season, to accomplish the
all-wise purposes o His unerring providence; for He can bring good oot o
apparent evil. An oh,mind, Mary, hinny, ye hae nae faither noo to
direct ye!Ye winna hae me to advise ye. But put your trust in the Faither
o the faitherless. He will be your director. An oh, should ye enter the
houses o the ungodly, where family duty is unheard, as duly as ye rise,
let the blessed thought o the morning exercise in your faithers house,
summon ye to your knees, An at night, when others sit down to cards an
to gambling, think that there were nae sic books in the house where ye
were brought up; an that the hours they spend in wickedness an folly,
were there spent in prayer and in edification, concerning the things that
belong to our eternal peace. I ken, my dear bairn, that my words winna be
wasted upon you. An oh, let me say wi the wise manIf sinners entice
thee, consent thou not. Let them ca it amusementto kill timeor what
they will. Life is uncertain an time is precious. Flee ye rather to your
closet, an there, in secret, pour out your soul before a prayer-hearing
God. An only think, if shuffling pieces o painted paste board,
sacrificing fortune, health, an reputation, be for moment to be put in
the balance wi the sublime privilege o holding conversation wi Him that
sitteth upon the throne for ever an ever, an filleth immensity wi his
presence. They may mock you, they may persecute you; but think o Him that
was mocked, scourged, spit upon, an crucified on a tree, for your sake;
an remember that He has saidThey who are ashamed o Him before men, o
them will He be ashamed before His Father who is in Heaven. Pray for a
humble an a contrite spirit. In a your trials may he be your rock o
support; an wi this assurance I will go down to the grave in peace."
Next morning, Mary parted
from her faithful domestic. The farmer, with whom she resided for a few
days, sent a cart with her luggage to the inn, where the coach passed for
Edinburgh. Every inhabitant in the villagethe old, the young, and the
middle-agedwere assembled round the house to say "Farewell," and bestow
their blessing. Every eye was wet; and as she came forth to take their
hands, hersalone was dry. She spoke not, for anguish fettered her
tongue; and as she, without a sigh, took the hand of the last, and went
forth, a homeless orphan from the midst of them, they might have said to
"The sadness which thou seest is not
Her wounds are far too deep for simple grief."
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