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Wilson's Border Tales
The Minister's Daughter

Chapter 6


Withering and scorching as the eye of God,
Is the proud glance of injured innocence,
When bent by woman upon worthless man.
For, what are threatening frowns, or strength of arm.
While virtue grasps omnipotence and wields
The burning electricity of heaven,
At which a giant trembles! To behold
A woman fixed as death—deep, calmly desperate—
Ready to die, and die with dignity—
Wearing her honour in her life’s last blood,
Makes naught the fiercest purposes of man,
And buries passion in his blushing soul!
Or, who could view the tear steals silent down
The cheek where beauty blossomed, ere the winds
Of misery nipped its roses in their bud,
Nor beg that he might chase that tear away,
Though falling for an enemy? Or feel
His heart burst forth, his hand already raised
To strike her in defence. For woman’s tears
Are as a sovereign’s voice whom all men love;
And there is neither left the will, nor power,
To stand a rebel to their fond appeal.

On the day after leaving the worthy drover, Henry Walton obtained a passage to London, from whence he found but little difficulty in pursuing his journey to his father’s house.

Now, when Henry Watson returned to Buckham Priory, the seat of his ancestors, he found that his parents were from home; and there accompanied him from London a Sir Mark Wallingford—a gay man and a man of the world, but withal a heartless man.

Henry longed for the return of his parents, that he might acknowledge to them his marriage with Mary Robertson, and that he might hear their lips pronounce her their daughter.

One morning, as Sir Mark was passing through he perceived a letter, in a fine female hand, addressed to Henry, and bearing a Scottish post-mark. It was a temptation he could not resist. He took up the letter and placed it in his pocket. "A Scottish Venus!" said he—"A Greenland dove!" The letter was from Mary, announcing her intention of leaving Scotland for her husband. The words, husband and wife, with which the letter began, were lost upon Wallingford. He resolved to proceed to London, and there wait the arrival of his friend’s northern rosebud.

When Mary, therefore, arrived in London, she found Sir Mark Wallingford there to receive her in her husband’s name, whom he said he expected from Devonshire daily. The appearance of the house to which he conducted her, was not in keeping with his professions; yet she had no suspicion.

A day, however, did not pass, until the villain unmasked the villainy of his soul. It was now that all the energy of Mary’s character was revealed. The villain felt himseif crouch in her presence; and, although he at first ordered the landlady to keep her a prisoner, that personage soon tired of acting gaoler, without knowing who was to pay. His threatenings and his visits ceased.

One day, the landlady abruptly entered the apartment, and said—"I ask your pardon, ma’am—and, to be sure, I am very sorry to see a young creature in distress—but I has a family of my own to provide for; and, as you an’t paid last week’s lodgings, I shall thank you, ma’am, to have the goodness to settle it now; and, as I must look to the character of my children, poor things, in what sort of people I keep, I hope, ma’am, you will have no objections to quit my house next week."

Mary raised her eyes slowly to her face, and again met the cold, stupid, and suspicious glance which she had repelled with indignation on her first entering the house. She drew her hand slowly across her brow, like one awaking from a dream, and still in doubt regarding its reality. Her eyes became fixed, deeply fixed, on the prying and unfeeling countenance of her intruder; and her lips quivering with emotion, she exclaimed—"Woman!"

"Don’t woman me, madam," retorted the other; "it perhaps an’t for me to judge, but Heaven knows I always thought there was too much kindness and attention about that gentleman to stand long, or mean any good. Thou are a quiet enough lady, I own that, but quiet looks an’t to pay me, nor do any thing for my family. I may think wrong about his leaving thee in this here sort of way; but why, all the neighbourhood say the same about it already; and as I hae nothing but the good name of my house to depend on for a livelihood, I hope you will think of paying me, and remove as soon as possible."

Mary’s natural spirit and self-possession had returned. During this insulting harangue, she arose to her feet. Her breast no longer heaved, her lips no longer quivered, and her eyes no longer wept; she no longer trembled, seemed sorrowful, nor exhausted; the very tears dried on her glowing cheeks; she stood erect and motionless as a pillar of death, bending her piercing and immovable gaze on the object before her; every feeling absorbed in one—and that one measureless disdain. She continued for a few moments in the same silent and sublime attitude, her eye resting on the speaker with ineffable scorn; and, taking her purse, which contained but a few shillings more than the sum demanded, she counted out the paltry debt, and placing the amount on the table before the landlandy, she waved her hand in disgust, and in a tone which commanded obedience, exclaimed—"Away!"

With the servile cowardice of an inferior mind, the other placed her hand upon the money, and silently obeyed; but, on reaching the door, she hesitated—turned; and the sound of the silver having brought her back to humanity, she falteringly ventured to inquire—"Could I serve you in anything, ma’am?"

Without speaking, Mary impatiently stamped her foot, and again waved her hand; while the other, trembling beneath her own insignificance, slid out of the room.

On finding herself again alone, Mary’s feelings gushed back into their former channels; and the heartless indignity adding its sting to other sorrows her tears burst forth anew, and flooded faster than before. She sank upon her knees, and in the excess of her grief, prayed that she might be given strength, and taught resignation. Her petition was humble, earnest, and importunate; and, as she breathed a fervid and anxious Amen, tranquility fell upon her troubled spirit, as the morning dawn silently rolls the mist from the valley, or melts away the cloud upon the hills. It was not hope, but a something more than hope, which no physician but prayer can impart; as though a radiant angel had winged his way to heaven with our request, and from his wake of glory beamed back holiness on our souls.

Mary’s first act was now to change her lodgings where she might be secure.


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