Six weeks had passed, and
the domestics of Cuthbertson Lodge heard no tidings of their master; for
he had left it, none knew whither, shortly after the funeral of Mr.
Robertson. Every individual in the house and upon the estate, from Janet
Gray down to the cow-boy who herded by the hillside, began to feel alarmed
for his absence. Several of the tenants and household were met in conclave
before the Lodge, deliberating upon the cause, and concerting measures to
procure intelligence respecting him. An elderly cotter, holding a
snuff-box in his hand, and into which he, over and anon, dipped his finger
and thumb, without, however, raising their contents half-way to his
nostrils, assuming a countenance of more than usual seriousness and
sagacity, said—"I dinna ken, sires,--an’ I dinna like to be forward in
giein’ an opinion, but, I may say, it’s the opinion o’ mair folk than ane—do
ye ken, I think there was an unco change upon the laird afore ever he gaed
away:--that’s what I think."
"Losh, John, man,"
interrupted another, "whar do ye get yer news? I’m sure we a’ kenned
"Weel, neebor," replied the
composed cotter, "I wasna sayin’ that ye didna ken; but ye’ll no hear what
a body has to say. Noo, I was sayin’ that, in my opinion, the laird was
greatly altered; but I’ll tell ye hoo—and this is a fact whether I was
workin’ about the plantin’, biggin at the dykes or even ditchin’—it was
nae matter what; whanever he cam past, he wad hae stopped an’ had a crack.
‘Weel, John,’ he wad hae said, as familiar like, as if we had lived butt
an’ ben—‘Weel, John, hoo’s a’ wi’ ye the day? Is the wife an’ the barins
a’ weel?’ ‘Thank ye, sir, I wad hae said—‘we are a’ meikle about our
ordinar. How are a’ the folk about the lodge?’ Ye may lauch, sirs, but, as
sure as death, I used to ask him just in that familiar way. Do ye think I
wad tell ye a lee? ‘Hae ye onything in yer mull the day John?’ he wad hae
said again: ‘ye keep famish sneeshin’—whar do ye get it?’ ‘I daresay,
sir,’ say I, ‘I’ve nae particular merchant, but sometimes frae ane, an’
sometimes frae anither.’ Noo, we just used to crack in that sort o’ way,
for maybe half an hour at a time, twice or thrice a-week. For he used to
say, ‘I like to hear John enter fairly upon a crack—he’s sae entertainin’.’
I canna mak oot, sirs, what ye are geeglin’ at. It’s my opinion ye think
I’m tellin’ ye an untruth. Ye may either believe it or no; but I’ll tell
ye what it is—for some time afore he gaed awa, there was a great change
upon the laird, and he used to pass me, without gommin’ me ony mair than
if I had been an auld milestane; never even looked the road I was on; or
said—‘Is that you, John?’ but gaed saunterin’ and seighin’—Lord preserve
us! I could hear his seighs, I’ll no say a quarter o’ a mile aff—but—I
canna tell ye hoo far. Noo, what I infer frae a’ this, is that the laird
is greatly changed or, in my opinion, that there is something upon his
"Weel, if ye be dune wi’
your sermon, John, an’ a body may put in a word edgeways," said a farmer,
"I’ll tell ye, without palaver, that the laird was a wee thocht unsettled
afore he left the lodge, an’ ought to be seen about. I doubt the back-gaun
o’ his marriage has been a sair upsettin’ to his reason, honest man; and
it will be a pity— that’s a’ that I can say. I think his agent in Kelso
should be written to —and that immediately."
Janet Gray, who, from the
period of Mary’s leaving Burnpath, had resided in the lodge, as a sort of
superior housekeeper, was about to be consulted, when the laird himself
was seen proceeding up the avenue, and, like a mischievous schoolboy, with
his cane, switching the heads from the flowers which adorned the sides of
the path. The group remained to welcome his approach, for they not only
respected him as a master, but loved him as a brother. But the
incorrigible cotter, whose assurance was after the same quality as his
equanimity, still holding the snuff-box in his hand, and deeming it an
irresistible opportunity of giving ocular proor of the familiarity on
which he had enlarged, shouldered his spade, and proceeded down the avenue
to meet him.
"I’m glad to see ye back,
sir,—unco glad, indeed," said he, holding the snuff-box to his master’s
"Glad!" exclaimed Mr
Cuthbertson, as if starting from a dream, and dashing the proffered box to
the ground—"glad! the rivers run wi’ sorrow, and the sun has burnt up
joy!—and ye say ye are glad!—glad!—hae ye nae sympathy? The earth is a
lump o’ desolation, an’ hoo can ye be glad!"
"I’m very sorry ye should
think sae sir," said the tranquil cotter, stooping and lifting his
box—"very sorry to hear ye say sae, indeed; for, in my opinion, Sir, if we
war to count owre the mercies, we enjoy, instead o’ the things which we
"Excuse me, John," said Mr
Cuthbertson, kindly shaking the hand of the cotter; "I doubt I’ve no been
sae pleasant to ye as I should hae been. But I was kind o’ daized and
stupid ways when ye spak; for I’ve had but little rest, and a guid deal to
make me unhappy lately. I’ve skaift yer snuff, but I’ll take care that yer
box be replenished. But oh, John! John, man! when a’ the best and the
dearest hopes and feelings o’ the heart are split, they are like water
upon the ground, that canna be gathered up again!"
The cotter was about to
make one of his accustomed prose replies; but, as his master returned to
recollection, the fulness and anguish of his heart returned also, and he
turned away from the never-ruffled speaker, and proceeded towards the
Lodge. The others drew near to congratulate him on his arrival, and
express the uneasiness they had felt.
"Thank ye, thank ye,
friends," said he, passing on, and endeavouring to conceal the emotions to
which his last conversation had given rise; "I’m unco weel. Here is braw
weather for the harvest."
"Mercy! hear that!"
whispered the farmer; "he says braw weather for the harvest. I’m sure
we’ll hae nae shearin’ in this part o’ the country for twa months to come.
Wheat is hardly in the shot-blade yet."
"Do ye observe," added
another, as he entered the house, "how careless he is wi’ his claes, and
how particular he used to be; he wadna gaen out owre the door wi’ a single
jesp on them."
"Ay," said a third; "an how
frichtfu’ his beard looks."
"Preserve us!" cried a
fourth, "are ye a’ daft thegither? Hasna the laird been a journey?—an’ do
ye think, when folks are travellin’, they can hae a tailor or a barber for
ever at their elbow! A bonny story truly, that a man maun be said to be
out o’ his head, because he’s no jist as prim and preceese as a mantie-maker!
An’ what’s the great fault ye hae to find wi’ him sayin, that this is
‘fine weather for the harvest?’ Is it no fine weather for bringin’ it
forward; an’ therefore, I say it’s fine weather for the harvest—an’ the
laird was richt. Had he said, ‘Here’s fine harvest weather, ye micht hae
"Hech, man! where did ye
learn to argue?" interrupted a listener; "ye wad made a famous writer to
"Or an advocate before the
Lord o’ the Session!" returned another, sarcastically.
"It wad be worth
half-a-crown to hear him and John the hedger yoked," added the farmer. And
the party dispersed. The domestics in the Lodge were endeavouring to
testify their joy at the master’s return. Each flew to proffer him a
hundred little services, or make inquiry into every want. Old Janet threw
aside her stocking; and, without performing the customary formalities of
adjusting her cap and apron, bustled down stairs to welcome her favourite
and friend. He was kindly shaking hands with the servants, and thanking
them for their attention. They withdrew as Janet approached, and he
hastily rose to meet her.
"Welcome! welcome hame,
Sir!" cried she; "an’ sair sair lookin’ we have a’ had for ye! But, oh!
did ye find her?—hae ye seen my ain bairn?"
"Yes! yes, Janet, I’ve seen her!"
replied he. "Heavens—and my disconsolate, mourning spirit kens—I
seen her! Yes, Janet, I have seen her! But, sit down, sit down. Hech,
woman! it’s been a lang journey, an a sad one. My voice by night has been
like the troubled wind on the dark sea. Oh, Janet! ye may think my grief
unreasonable, but mine was no common love—it was strong as the judgments
"Oh, Sir! sir," said
Janet—"there’s nane kens yer feelings better than I do—and nane, I’m sure,
that has mair cause to mingle her tears o’ mourning wi’ yer lamentations,
but, oh, my worthy friend and benefactor, in the midsi of our sorrow, let
us remember the Hand that afflicts us, an’ not yield to sinful and profane
"Janet," said he," when the
very heartstrings are stangin’ and writhin’ round the bosom, like adders,
the tongue canna wale the words. This may be a judgment upon me--for it
wasna love—it was adoration!—an’ though it may crush me to my grave, it’s
adoration still. Without her, I an’ my life is to live and feel death for
ever! Death—wi’ the last pangs o’ life! Death—wi’ the horrors o’ the
grave! Death—wi’ a’ that’s terrible hereafter!"
"Oh, my freend! my freend!"
cried Janet, "if it be His will, may ye find peace and comfort to yer
"Peace an’ comfort!" he
exclaimed—"na, na!—naethin’ upon this earth can now gie peace an comfort
to me, but the spade—the shool—the kirkyard! Talk o’ peace an’ comfort to
the deein’ traveller in the desert, wha has the burnin’ sand for a windin’
sheet, an’ the scorchin’ wind to his perched tongue! But what’s death in
the wilderness Janet to the desolation of the soul!—what’s the burning
sand to the burnin’ brain o’ despair!—and what’s the scorchin’ wind an’
the parched tongue, to the witherin’ an’ consumin’ agony o’ love without
hope!—o’ a heart dried up for ever! for ever!"
"Do try an’ compose yersel’,
Sir," said Janet. "I wad fain ask a question or twa aboot my bairn; but
while ye are in such agitation, I canna—I daurna. But, oh! how has she
been? How did she get there? Is he good till her? An’ what for did she not
write?—or hae ye a letter? Has she no forgotten my counsel? Are his family
guid to my bairn? Oh, Sir! try an’ compose yersel’ for a single minute and
answer me only that one question."
"Oh, Janet!" answered he, "dinna
ask me, I implore ye, for I canna answer. My bein’ there is like a
dream—(for he had been to London in quest of her)—a painfu’ painfu’ dream!
But I surely saw her—yes, I surely saw my ain Mary!—drooping like a
snaw-drap, and fair as the alabaster! But I mind nae mair!—naethin’!
"Oh!" said Janet, "if it
were the Lord’s will that I might be permitted to see my dear bairn
"Ye shall see her,
Janet," said Mr. Cuthbertson, calmly, and he rose and took her hand; "ye
shall see her Janet. I mind naething distinctly, but I fear I hae added
affliction to the spirit I beheld sinking, an’ that thoct is muir bitter
to endure than a’ my sorrows. I’m a lonely, friendless bein’, wi’ nane to
share my griefs—nane to mourn for me. I had but one hope—one desire. It
was buried here, Janet" (and he laid his hand on his breast)—"it
was buried here for years, and for years. The joys o’ life, the melody o’
existence, were locked up wi’ it’s very bein’—but now it’s gane—it’s
broken—it has perished, like the first sound o’ our infant voice!—and
they’re gane also. I hae but ae wish left, an’ I will perform it. I will
pray for fortitude. I will—I must see her again; an’ you, Janet,
shall accompany me."
A few days after this
conversation, the family carriage, which had not been half-a-dozen times
without the coach-house since the death of the former Mr. Cuthbertson, was
put in preparation for a journey. A footman took his seat behind;
Janet was handed by the laird into the vehicle; and, after wishing
good-bye to his household, he took his place by her side. None knew their
destination, save that they took the English road, by way of Otterburn.
With what success old
Cuthbertson and Janet Gray pursued their inquiries in London, will be now
seen. Mary began to be in want. With a trembling hand she took a watch—the
gift of her father—from her neck. She gazed on it and wept. It was thine!
it was thine, my father!" she cried—"thy last gift to thy poor
child! But forgive me!—my father, forgive thy Mary! It must be done!"
She was ignorant of its
value; but trusting to the honesty of the world, and knowing it at least
was worth more than what was required for immediate necessities, with an
anxious and a throbbing heart she left her lodgings to offer it in pledge.
Every step seemed to be leading her to something resembling guilt—to an
action for which she blushed. Her soul appeared to shrink within itself;
and her body moved onward with a consciousness of misery and of shame.
Every eye in the passing crowds looked as if fixed upon her, and every eye
in those crowds seemed to read her errand as she passed them. She was
passing down Holborn, her eyes fell upon the words, "Money lent." She
stood still for a moment. The window was filled with every varied token of
misfortune and dissipation, from the jewelled watch and wearing apparel
down to the prayer-book; and the ancient arms of Lombardy were suspended
from the door. Twice she essayed to enter, and resolution failed. In vain
she wiped away the tears from her eyes, for others uncalled on took their
"I must! I must!"
she murmured with a sigh; and yet a third time her hand was on the door,
her foot upon the threshold.
"Guidness and mercy?"
exclaimed a voice behind her—and an arm was suddenly thrown around her
waist—"it is her! Janet! it’s our ain Mary!—oor angel Mary, snatched like
a brand frae the burning! wi’ her very feet upon the steps o’ poverty an’
disgrace, an’ her han’ on the door o’ ruin! It’s me, Mary, hinny—it’s me,
an here’s yer ain Janet come to seek ye. But, oh, hinny! hinny! what in
the earthly globe has driven ye to this?"
The speaker was Mr.
Cuthbertson. At the sudden sound of his voice, and at such a moment, Mary
uttered one exclamation of confusion and surprise, and for a few seconds
heard no more. She seemed launched, with the velocity of the lightning,
from this world of realities to a state of dreams. She yielded almost
unresistingly to his arm, while the voice was like the murmur of water in
her ears; and as her eyes beheld them, it was only a consciousness of
perceiving a substance, without distinguishing the form.
"Oh, my Mary !--my bairn!"
cried the old woman, throwing her arms round her neck, "hae ye no ae word
to say to yer ain Janet? My sweet, my winsome bairn! what’s the meaning o’
"Desperation and poverty,
Janet !—desperation and poverty, Janet!" cried Mr. Cuthbertson; "that’s
the meaning o’ this. Wha’s me! what a pass!—that--no—no—my
Mary—but—but—but!—oh, Janet, that she should hae been starving, while we
were wallowing in the land o Goshen."
Janet—"Oh, sir, what do ye mean?—or hoo do ye ken? Speak to me—speak to
me, my mair than bairn, or my heart will break."
The strangeness of the
scene, the stranger language, and broad Scottish accent of the speakers,
had already collected a crowd around them, which, as Mary partially
recovered from her agitation, tended to deepen her confusion.
"My kind, faithful Janet,"
she replied, "this —this is a happiness I did not now expect,—and—and—Mr.
"Ay, just Mr. Cuthbertson,"
interrupted he. "O Mary, Mary, —just Mr. Cuthbertson;—little did I
think ance to hear you ca’ me"—
"Dinna talk o’ that the
now, sir," cried Janet; "for I’ll declare, wi’ ye talking about
starving, ye have made me that I dinna ken what I’m doing already!
What does he mean, my ain darling? Oh, tell me, noo that ye can speak, and
hoo hae ye been?"
"Dear Janet," said Mary,
"this is no place for explanations—the people are gathering round us, and
it pains me"—
"I’ll do naething to pain
ye, my dawtie," added Janet; "sorry wad I be to do onything that could
pain ye—ye ken that; but think to yoursel’, is it no natural, that me that
nursed ye—me that ate o’ your faither’s bread for thirty years—is it no
Here her voice failed—she
sobbed, and again threw her arms round Mary’s neck.
"Very true, Janet," said
Mr. Cuthbertson; "but think ye it’s no mair natural for me to"—
The crowd continued to
increase, and were pressing around them.
"Dear friends," said Mary,
"I cannot--I will not endure this. You know I do not feel less at this
meeting than you; but you would not have us to become a spectacle and
expose our feelings, and the circumstances of our family, on a public
street. Be composed, dear Janet." She took Cuthbertson’s hand—"Come
brother, I claim your protection."
"And ye shall hae it,"
replied he kindly; "if I’ve said or dune onything amiss, only forgie me.
For every now and then there’s a mist comes owre my soul, and I hardly ken
whether the past’s the present, or the present’s the past, or hoo it is,
or where I am. But ye’ll forgie me, Mary.
"Name not forgiveness—I
have nothing to forgive," she returned; "but let us leave this crowd."
"Crowd—what crowd?" he
enquired, with a look of stupidity; and turning round only then became
aware of the presence of some hundred individuals, whom he and Janet had
drawn around them "In the name o’ wonder folk," he exclaimed, "what are ye
gapin’ an’ starin’ at? Is nature sic a stranger to yer breasts that
ye will stand glowerin’ there like a wheen savages? Is this a specimen o’
yer London manners?—awa wi’ ye, every ane o’ ye, an’ look after yer ain
"Peace, peace, my friend,"
said Mary, "let us leave them." And they proceeded towards her lodgings.
After they had sat for a
time—"I must leave ye now," said Mary, "but I will return soon. You will
not weary Janet?"
"O bairn, just hand yer
tongue," cried Janet, "for I’ll gang wi’ ye, though it were to the end o’
the earth. Do ye think that I’ll let ye out o’ my sight already, an’ ye no
answered me ae question! I see ye are put about about something, an’ ye
winna tell me. How can ye be sae cruel? Wad I no lay down my life to serve
ye? and ye, ye’ll no tell me—no ae word."
"Janet," said Mary, "when I
return, you shall hear everything; at present I am compelled to leave you,
but only for a few hours."
"Alas, alas," replied
Janet, "an’ hae I come three, four, or I dinna ken how mony hunder miles,
just to hear ye say—‘Janet, I’m compelled to leave ye!’ There’s something
wrang, I see that plainly—an’ ye winna tell me—me that carried ye in my
"No! no! dear
Janet—nothing! nothing!" rejoined Mary; "all will be well. Good-bye now,
and I trust we shall not part again."
"No part again!" resumed
the other, in a tone of delight, "do I hear my ain bairn say the words?
Then I will let ye gang, but, oh, dinna bide an hour—dinna stay mony
minutes—for if ye only kenned my anxiety, hinny, to ken hoo ye gat to
Devonshire, as they ca’ it—or what’s brought ye here again, I’m sure ye
wadna stay a single moment. An’ bring Mr. Walton wi’ ye—noo, will ye
promise to bring him, an’ I’ll just be happy?"
"I cannot, Janet—I cannot!"
said Mary, in accents of unconcealed anguish; "do not distress me."
"Ye canna!" exclaimed
Janet, and sank back in her seat. "Sirs, sirs, what does my bairn mean?"
"I know your friendship,"
she replied, and trembling arose to depart; "but farewell now—I shall
return shortly—yes—yes—I shall return soon."