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Wilson's Border Tales
The Minister's Daughter

Chapter 5


Well, of all teasing tortures, sure the worst
Is, on some tedious journey, to be curst
In a companion, with a shapeless thing
Clad in the scrapings of an insect’s wing
A pert vain fop, a libertine, and fool,
Who minces oaths per rood, and walks by rule;—
The barber’s nightmare dream !—the tailor’s dread!—
Who, if you cannot sleep, will "talk you dead!"
Who deems his sickly face, and scented glove,
Sufficient charms for every lady’s love;
Nor doubts the brightness of his tortured hair,
To be a passport to insult the fair!

Mary’s friends, who assembled to bid her adieu, had again returned, weeping, on their way to Burnpath. She had parted with the lingering few who attended her to the coach, seen their hands waved, and heard their farewel!—God bless you! pronounced with tears; but her own cheeks were still dry. Yet their clear paleness, and melancholy expression, appeared like a marble sanctuary of grief, lighted by the lamp of sorrow which burned within. Her youth, and the elegance of her figure, rendered still more interesting by her garb of mourning, which cast its deep shadows over the ivory purity of her beauty, singled her out as an object of sympathy to some, and of admiration and scrutiny to all her fellow-passengers.

It was a beautiful March morning, ruined only by a breeze from the south-west, which although not cold, was occasionally too strong to be pleasant. The whins were already adorning the barren heath with their golden covering; and, as they approached the northern extremity of the mountains, in a moment, spring rejoiced in the song of the lark, and the labours of the husbandman. The empire of sterility was suddenly stayed in the pride of its desolation; and a straight line, stretching from the sea as far as the eye could reach, seemed to declare—"Hitherto shalt thou come and no farther;" while in summer the heather put forth its gorgeous blossoms, and the strong wheat, towering by its side, waved gracefully over it; the one touching the other, and each thriving in the strength of its own true region.

Mary’s travelling companions grew clamorous in their admiration of the scene; and a small gentleman, who was determined to be nothing, if not critical, checked what he considered their want of taste, by observing that the landscape was spoiled by too great a proportion of water. While another remarked that "he was perfectly of his opinion, and thought that the country would be much finer, were it not for the fir trees, and others that he did not know the name of."

"By my faith! but ye are twa judges, I warrant ye!" said a sturdy countryman, with an equally sturdy cudgel between his knees, and who had hitherto devoted his attention exclusively to a sagacious-looking dog which occupied a place by his side—"ye are twa judges without a doot! Wud and water destroy a landscape! Was ye born in a coal-pit, gentlemen?—or in the region round about Bowbells, were the smoke and the trees, I understand, are meikle o’ a colour? I thocht yer famous Doctor Johnson said we hadna a tree in a’ our country!"

To these sarcastic and half unintelligible observations, the young gentlemen deemed it prudent to be silent; and the first-mentioned connoisseur who appeared to have been brought to the coach in a bandbox, fresh from the hands of his tailor—with the impudent and unfeeling effrontery of an empty coxcomb, who considers his own insignificant form and disagreeable face irresistible, commenced an attack upon Mary, who had hitherto remained silent, playing off his impertinent badinage, to the edification of his own ear, and the annoyance of all around him. But she, buried in her own thoughts, did not even deign to answer him with one monosyllable—with one glance of scorn. An angry scowl from time to time, was given by the countryman, who sat facing him; and another from the dog, that looked in its master’s face, and, catching the expression of his eyes, gave a low growl, indicating its wish to punish the object of his resentment. The young gentleman, however, still affected to despise the displeasure of his plebeian fellow-traveller, and throughout two stages, he continued to persecute, with ill-timed mirth and vulgarity, which he mistook for wit, the lovely and unprotected being whom chance had thrown for a few hours by his side.

Sinking beneath the weight of her sorrows, she was resting her brow pensively on her hand, when the coach stopped for a few minutes at an inn by the way-side; where her loquacious companion, whose assumed familiarity now amounted to insolence, having called for a glass of brandy and water, attempted to pull her hand from her face, saying—"Come, my pretty dummie, if you can’t speak, you can perhaps drink!"

"Drink yersel’, ye infernal impudent puppy!" exclaimed the countryman; and, at the same instant, raising his cudgel, he dashed the glass in a hundred pieces, spilling the brandy and water on the inexpressibles of the exquisite, and causing the blood to gush from the ends of his fingers, which had received part of the blow.

"Scoundrel!" vociferated the trembling pattern of the fashions, half choked with pain and passion, while he stretched out at arm’s length, his gentle fingers, dripping with gore; and, casting a rueful look at his soiled cassimeres, added—"Scoundrel! you shall answer for this!"

"No a word oot o’ yer head, ye unmannerly vagabond!" cried the other; "no a word oot o’ yer head!—or there’s the grund for ye!"

And, suiting the action to the word, he seized him neck and heel, and the next moment the thing of "shreds and patches," his fashionables covered with March dust, was weeping, and mincing his genteel oaths upon the pavement.

"Let him lie there, and be hanged to him," said the countryman; "he deserves a’ he’s got."

"No, no!" interrupted Mary; "let no one suffer upon my account. The ignorance of the young man is his sufficient punishment."

"I wad say that wad be bad logic, ma’am, in a court o’ law," said her champion; "but, howsever, if I helped the insignificant cratur doon, I’ll help him up again."

He leaped from the coach, raised the gentleman like a child in his arms, and placed him again in his former seat, remarking—"Noo, see that ye be quiet till we get to Edinburgh, least a warse thing happen ye. But I didna intend to smash yer bits o’ leddy-like fingers, after a’. Are they sair hurt!" And taking them in his own Herculean fist to examine them, he inquired—"Has ony o’ ye a bit rag?"

The coach drove off; and Mary, having dressed the wounds of her late tormentor, he hung his head upon his breast, and was silent during the rest of the journey.

For some time they had seen Arthur’s Seat uprearing, in bold magnificence, its stony front, and bearing, even at this view, some resemblance to a lion preparing to spring upon its prey; together with the Calton Hill and its observatory and the proud castle, high towering in gigantic majesty between them like the genius of war, defying its thunderbolts. And now the fair City of Palaces, glistening in the sun, opened to their right, like a sea of silver; while, to their left, grey and venerable with years, rose pile upon pile, house rising upon house, in eccentric but sublime array, bearing the shapes of departed ages; and their hoary summits, partly veiled in the cloudy columns which floated around them, seemed like the ghosts of time, looking down, "more in sorrow than in anger," from their irregular and strong towers, on the beauty and order of modern improvements; while Leith, stretching out its arms to embrace it, and a hundred fair gardens smiling around their union, with the blue Frith circling them, and bearing the wealth of other nations to their threshold, make Edinburgh appear, to the eye of the traveller, one of earth’s fairest cities.

On their stopping at the Black Bull, the countryman sprang first to the ground, and, with the air of a cavalier politely assisted Mary from the coach.

"I ask your pardon, ma’am," said he; "but as I ken ye are a stranger, if ye will alloo me, I’ll jist tak yer bit trunk under my arm, and show ye to ony place ye may be gaun to; for I ken every fit o’ Edinburgh, jist as weel as I ken Burnpath or Cowdingham."

She expressed her gratitude for his kindness, but begged that he would not think of burdening himself with her trunk.

"Burden! hinny!" said he, "I wush I micht ne’er has a greater burden than to carry it back th’ nicht again, to whar it cam frae! Mind ye, thae cadie an’ porter bodies are extortionable craturs, when they get hand o’ ony ane that they think they can impose upon." And, throwing the trunk upon his shoulder, he added, "Now, ma’ain, if ye’ll jist say whar ye wish to gang, I’m at yer service."

Mary knew but little of Edinburgh, and that little appeared to her like the broken remembrance of a dream. She was here without friends, almost without an acquaintance and the only individual whose house she could look to as temporary home, during her stay in the Scottish capital, was a commercial gentleman, called Lindsay, residing in Brown Square, who had been highly esteemed by, and was distantly related to her father. On her signifying a wish to be conducted there—"To Brown Square!" said the countryman, whom the reader will have peceived was no other than Willie Watson, the Berwickshire drover—"To Brown Square!—ye shall be there in ten minutes. An’, besides, it wunna tak me oot o’ my way in the least, for my line o business, ma’am, lies in the Grassmarket; an’ I can just whoup down Merchant Court, an’ be there in a jiffy, after seein’ ye safe."

On arriving at the house of Mr. Lindsay, the footboy who opened the door stated that his master was in Glasgow, and that Mrs. Lindsay and daughters were at home, but were then dressing in order to go out to an evening party. Mary’s heart felt sick. There was a coldness in the accent and manner of the very boy. She knew Mr. Lindsay only; his wife and daughters she had never seen. She hesitated in what manner she should give in her name, and her confusion became visible. She was shown into a parlour, and Willie, having placed her trunk in the passage, seemed anxious to witness her reception before leaving; but Mary took his hand, thanked him for his friendly care and attention, and desired that, if possible, she might see him again before he left town.

"Ye may depend on that, ma’am," said he, "ye may depend on that"—-and a tear stole down his weather beaten cheek—" I wad hae liket to see hoo ye are to be situated before I left ye; but, although I am only a plain farmer, I’m no insensible o’ what is due to guid breedin’. Sae I’ll bid ye guid day the noo, ma’am; but I’ll mak it my business to ca’ the morn, afore I gang east again; an’, if ye hae ony word to send, I will tak it as a favour to be the bearer."

The honest drover, making a slight bow, worth all the formal suppleness of superficial politeness, took his leave. Mary remembered having seen him formerly; and had heard him spoken of, but only as a wrestler and a pugilist, whose quarrels were in the mouth of every one, and the terror of a peaceable neighbourhood. But now she could only look upon him as a warm-hearted man, who, whatever were his faults, could not be destitute of redeeming virtues.

Half-an-hour passed, and she was still left to muse upon her reception, without seeing either Mrs. Lindsay or her daughters. She felt it as an indignity to a friendless orphan—to the only child of a man who befriended them, and placed them in the path of fortune. She had arisen with the intention of leaving the house, and seeking a lodging elsewhere, when Mrs. Lindsay and her three daughters, rustling in a gaudy and tasteless display of showy silk, rich brocade, and Brussels lace, with head-dresses as ridiculous and unnatural as silver tissue, golden ears of corn, artificial hair, and the wearied fingers of their maid could make them sailed into the room. Each, in her turn, slid towards Mary like a boat gliding for a few yards by a single stroke of the oars—halted within three feet, like a young recruit at the word of command—dropped a low and graceful congee—gently extended the tip of her fore-finger—smiled---whispered—and withdrew to a chair.

The mother and daughters having paid their formal salutation to their visitor—"You look shockingly pale, child," said the former; "don’t you think so, girls?" And again turning to Mary—"I believe your father and Mr. Lindsay were acquainted—were they not?’

"They were, ma’am," answered Mary, shocked at the cold indifference of a question so little a to have been anticipated.

"Your father is dead lately, I think my husband was saying," returned the other.

Mary could only reply, "Yes!"

She would have wept, but indignation at the ingratitude of the other withheld her tears.

"And met with his death rather unfortunately too, did he not?" continued Mrs. Lindsay.

This was too much. A crowd of thoughts and recollections flashed at once upon her bosom; she replied only with a sigh, and the tears burst forth.

"Nay, do not distress yourself, dear child," said the wife of her father’s friend—"those sort of things will happen, you know; and our tears can do no good."

"Perhaps Miss Robertson is fatigued with her journey, and will take a glass of wine," said the youngest daughter, whose heart was not touched by the frigid affectation of her mother and sisters; and hastened to present it.

"I am sorry Mr. Lindsay is from home," added the matron, "and we do not expect him before to-morrow. Do you intend making any stay in town?"

"Only a few days," rejoined Mary.

"And perhaps you have not yet procured a lodging?" inquired the other.

"Oh, dear mamma," replied the youngest, who at that moment entered with the wine, "I am sure I

will have no objections to sleep with me; and, if she only do, I should be so happy."

"True, child!" returned the mother; "and I should be very happy if she would: but remember your father is from home, and we are just going out to a party, so that you see the thing is quite impossible—we cannot leave Miss Robertson alone."

"Nay, nay, mamma," said the daughter; "you and sisters can give my apologies to Lady Sillerdykes (should she discover I am absent), and I shall remain at home to bear Miss Robertson company, which will give me a great deal more pleasure."

"Do not name it, my dear friend," said Mary; "you nor any one shall make a sacrifice of enjoyment for me. I have met with trials more severe than the procuring of a lodging, or passing a night alone."

"She is the most foolish, wilful girl in the world," resumed the mother. "To talk of not going to my Lady’s!--when—would you believe it, Miss Robertson? –these four dresses, which were made for the occasion, cost one hundred and twenty pounds! For the life of me, I don’t know what her father will say when the bill is presented! And yet to talk of not going!—not going, indeed! Do you suppose if you will not appear in public, that your father is to keep you in private all your life."

"La! now, mamma!" said the laughing girl, "how you do talk. Get husbands for sisters before you think of me."

As she spoke, a loud knocking was heard at door. Mrs. Lindsay bit her lips—the two elder looked to each other in dismay. The youngest flew smiling to the passage, and entered, holding her father’s hand, saying—"Miss Robertson, father !—your friend!—my friend!--from Burnpath.’

"Miss Robertson!" exclaimed Mr. Lindsay, who had unexpectedly returned. He hurried forward, pressed her hand fervidly within his. He gazed on her face for a few moments with silent tenderness; and, at length, in a voice broken with emotion, said, "Welcome! welcome, beloved child of my best friend!—welcome to my house—to your home!" Still holding her hands, and turning to his wife and daughters—"Behold," said he, "all that remains of our first benefactor! Mrs. Lindsay, henceforth be to her a mother; children, regard her as a sister."

"Oh, I am sure I shall," said the youngest, fondly smiling in her face—"and love her too."

"At present," said Mary, "I shall be with you but a few days; but for your affection for my beloved father, accept his orphan’s tears—accept her gratitude."

"Let it be for a few days, or for a few years," added Mr. Lindsay—"whatever is mine, you may at all times command."

Mrs. Lindsay now endeavoured, by overwrought civility, to atone for her past indifference. And having, as she conceived, by her attentions and protestations of affection for Mary, sufficiently delighted her husband to venture upon informing him of the invitation to Lady Sillerdykes—"My love," said she, with an endearing smile, "would you believe it!—my Lady Sillerdykes has sent your daughters and me the kindest invitation in the world, to attend her party to-night. There is to be a Marquis there!—several lords!—and I don’t know how many baronets!"—"And needy fortune hunters," added her husband, "ruined gamesters, add corrupters of morals, ad libitum."

"Oh, shocking, love!" replied Mrs. Lindsay; "you really distress me—you are always so cynical. But you know, if you won’t, I must take our children into society, like other people. And, with our prospects, the present honour, I assure you, my dear, is not to be overlooked."

"Oh, doubtless, doubtless," said Mr. Lindsay, with a sarcastic smile; "its advantages will be incalculable."

The worthy merchant, not having deemed it prudent to set up his own carriage, and Brown Square being but indifferently situated for the approach of one, Mrs. Lindsay and her two daughters had the mortification of walking to the College, to procure a hackney-coach; in which miserable vehicle they were to come in contact with the coroneted and crested equipages of their companions for the night, in the Crescent.

In the company of Mr. Lindsay and his youngest daughter, Mary forgot the insulting coldness of her reception. She undisguisedly related to him all the events which had recently transpired at Burnpath; save one—one on which all the rest in a measure revolved—her own marriage. And this she wished not to conceal from him—but feared, and knew not how to communicate it. It was known to but few beyond Burnpath; and until she should see Henry, or hear from him, she knew not how far she might act wisely in divulging it; and his mysterious silence, since his departure, increased her hesitation.

Next day, Willie Watson strode across Brown Square, "To inquire after the bit lassie," as he said, "for he feared as far as he could judge, she wad meet wi’ but a blae reception!"

He had heard of her marriage with Henry; and his name being at the moment uppermost in his thoughts, on the servant opening the door, he inquired—"Is Mrs. Walton within this morning?"

"There is no such person here," said the boy, attempting to shut the door.

"Nae sic person here!" said Willie, intercepting him with his foot—"Nae sic person here, do ye say? What’s come owre her then? Did I no bring her trunk here yesterday?"

"Oh, Mrs Walton!—beg pardon—yes, yes, I had forgot," said the crafty urchin, while a laughing devil twinkled at the corners of his eyes; and hurrying to the parlour, where Mary was sitting with Mrs. Lindsay and family—"A person wishes to speak with Mrs. Walton," said he.

"Mrs. Walton?" responded all, raising their eyes inquiringly—"Mrs. Walton?"

She trembled—blushed—cast her eyes upon the ground—shed a sudden tear—and, rising with the dignity of a princess, laid her hand upon Mr. Lindsay’s, saying—"Yes, my dear friend, I am Mrs. Walton; hereafter you shall know all. Show the stranger to me."

"How singular!" ejaculated Mrs. Lindsay.

"Did you ever!" exclaimed Miss Lindsay, in the attitude of adoration.

"Such a discovery!" cried her sister.

"Ah, my dear Mrs. Walton!" said the youngest, leaping towards her, "and you are married, are you? Well, I wish you joy with my whole heart."

"I trust I may rejoice that it is so, my amiable friend," replied Mr. Lindsay; "but reveal nothing to me which it would give you pain to relate."

Willie Watson was heard stalking along the passage, shaking the walls "with thundering tread." Making his best bow to the company, and firmly smoothing down his hair over his forehead, as he began to speak, he began also to smooth round his hat; and, continuing to turn it in his hand said—"I ask your pardon, leddies, and yours, too, sir, for coming in amang ye in a figure like this; for it doesna do to be owre particular in my line o’ life. But, ye see, having a great regard for Mrs. Walton’s connections—the memory o’ her worthy faither in particular—no to mention that the like o’ me has even the honour o’ being familiar, I may say, wi’ her, as wi’ her worthy husband, the son o’ the great Sir Robert Walton o’ Devonshire, ye ken, that (I saw it in the papers mysel’) gied twa thousand pounds, no lang syne, for an Arawbian mare—I say, no even to mention this, coming to the toun wi’ her yesterday, I couldna think o’ gaun hame till I heard how she was situated, an’ to see if she has ony word to send east by to Berwickshire."

His professing acquaintance with Henry, rendered him doubly interesting to Mary, and she more than forgave the confusion he caused by the betrayal of her secret. He further had mentioned circumstances relating to her husband’s family with which she was unacquainted; and, with the natural energy of her manner, she thanked him for the kindly interest he manifested in her behalf. Mr. Lindsay, to testify the sincerity of his welcome, placed him a chair beside his own, and ordered a morning dram. (A false and pernicious token of hospitality, which we trust to see exploded for ever). One glass begot another; and between Mr. Lindsay and the drover, an acquaintance that had been forgotten for almost thirty years was revived. The elder Misses Lindsay and their mother, were forgetting the shock they sustained on the entrance of the unpolished figure before them, in their redoubled attentions to the— wife of a Baronet’s son—when the Honourable Timothy Higgins was announced.

"Oh, shocking!" exclaimed Miss Lindsay, rising in perturbation—"and that odious man—show the gentleman into the drawing-room."

Mr. Lindsay was at this moment in the midst of a school adventure, in which Willie Watson and himself had been the principal actors.

"The Honourable Fiddle-de-dee!" said he, having heard the words "odious man," applied to his old schoolfellow—"Show him in here. I certainly am entitled to see that no honourable visitors to my house be dishonourable. Show him in here."

"Oh, horrid!—Mr. Lindsay, you are the most unaccountable man,"—said Mrs. Lindsay.

"My love!" replied the husband.

"I’ll be bidding ye guid-day, Mr Lindsay," said Willie, "for, although I hae the honour to be acquainted wi’ Mr. Walton, I maun say, after a’, that drovers arena just the kind o’ company that yer Honourables, and Richt Honourables, wad like to sit doun wi’; though cast off the bit coat an’ they wad maybe find wha is the best man for a’ that."

"Be seated," said Mr. Lindsay; "whoever may come, my house is large enough for an old friend."

Mr. Higgins had arrived on the preceding day from England, was at Lady Sillerdykes soiree in the evening, and having escorted the Misses Lindsay and their mother home had sent in his card to pay his respects to the ladies in the morning. Miss Lindsay was his partner during the evening; and she had already informed Mary that he was a divine creature, though his form was rather petit; and he had had the misfortune, a few weeks ago, as he told her, to have his right hand wounded in an affair of honour, which caused him at present to wear it in a sling, and rendered him indescribably interesting.

The mighty Mr. Higgins now entered, in all the imposing dignity of five feet two; bowed, smiled—bent his body—begged that they would excuse his misfortune; saw Mary—blushed-—shook—turned his eyes to the farther end of the room—started, and almost fainted at the feet of the ladies! Mary slightly, and somewhat disdainfully, returned his confused bow. Mr. Lindsay was rising to welcome him, when, to the horror of all, Willie Watson stalked across the floor, offered his hand to the Honourable and petrified Mr. Higgins, saying—"Weel, sir, hoo’s a’ wi’ ye the day? Hoo’s your fingers? I’m very sorry for that bit lick I gied them yesterday?"

Mr. Higgins trembled—perspired—grew pale—stuttered he would call again—turned his back upon the drover, and muttering something about engagements, to the astonishment of the ladies, bowed, blushed, and backed out of the room.

"I fear, my dears," said Mr. Lindsay, "your Honourable has met with a surprise:—he has made but a short visit."

"The less o’ his company the better," said Willie, "if we may judge by the specimen Mrs. Walton an’ me had o’ it on the coach yesterday."

He then narrated his impertinent conduct towards Mary, and bursting into a loud laugh, said—"But it wad hae been one joke, after a’, if I had left his bits o’ honourable fingers on the road, for the craws to build their nests wi’. Mrs. Walton," continued Willie, as he rose to depart, "if I micht mak sae free as to ask a favour, ye wad greatly oblige me by a word, or twa in private."

This being granted, he proceeded—"I was just wishing to ken, ma’am—if it’s no impertinent in me to ask—when ye heard frae Mr. Walton. For, to tell ye the truth, ma’am I like him maist as weel as ye can do yersel’. I gaed frae Dunse to Newcastle wi’ him; an’ four happier days I never spent in my life. He invited me, if ever I was up in the south, to come owre and spend a while at his faither’s. But I’ve heard naethin’ o’ him since he left Newcastle."

He forbore alluding to the nature of Henry’s disappearance, or the circumstances attending it; for what he wanted in politeness he had supplied to him in feeling. It was a question which, of all others, Mary would have avoided; for the thought that she had not heard from Henry was her deepest affliction. But she could not tell a falsehood; and, least of all, to one who gloried in the thought of being her husband’s friend, and who had acted as hers. Melting into tears, she replied that she had not.

Willie drew his coat sleeve across his eyes.

"Forgie me, ma’am—forgie me for askin’ ye," said he, "but I expect to be in London very soon: an’, if I dinna see you in Devonshire, I’ll at least bring ye word frae it! Guid day the noo, ma’am—guid-day!" And again drawing his sleeve across his eyes, the good-natured drover bent his way to the Grassmarket.


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