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Wilson's Border Tales
The Minister's Daughter

Chapter 9


"The scene was changed, and years were fled,
But found them still to virtue wed:
And the cheerless months that had passed away,
Threw sunshine o’er each bliasful day,
When fairest forms around them played,
And father, mother, fondly said;
For a parent’s joy, and a parent’s love,
Is a joy all other joys above!
And age drew on, but they knew it not,
The face of youth was half forgot;
But still the youthful heart was there,
And still his partner seemed as fair,
As when he first, in giddy bliss,
Snatched from her lips the virgin kiss."

Henry Walton, on receiving the letter from Mary, intimating her intention of leaving Scotland to share the fortunes of her husband, left Buckham Priory immediately, and proceeded by land to the north, in hope of meeting his young wife. It was on the second morning after Henry’s departure, that, as the coach on which he travelled passed through Morpeth, he was abruptly startled from the melancholy reverie into which he had fallen, by a stout countryman grasping him by the arm, and crying out—"My service to Maister Henry--I’ll wager ye a mutchkin o’ whisky ye’re gaun down to Scotland to look after Miss Mary Robertson—I beg your pardon—Mrs Walton, I mean."

"Tell me," said Henry, eagerly, "what you know of her."

"It canna be done in a breath, Maister Henry," replied the other; "but if ye’ll just step down frae the coach, walk wi’ me owre to Lucky Gillie’s, I’ll answer for yer being weel ta’en wi’, if that yer no blate to be seen wi’ a rough drover."

"Lead the way, and I will follow you," said Henry, jumping from the coach, and seizing the arm of his brawny companion; "but keep me not longer in this agony or suspense, if you esteem me, or regard the dear object of my search."

"Save us a’, man! and do ye doubt for a moment either the one or the other," ejaculated the drover, while a tear forced its way down his cheek. "I’ve borne baith o’ you on my heart ever since I was made acquaint with your privations and misfortunes, an’ I dinna think ye hae reason to fear that ane o’ the name o’ Watson will ever forget what is due to the unfortunate."

Henry grieved that he should, in his anxiety to be put in possession of all that was known of his wife, have given pain to his warm-hearted and generous companion. He therefore turned round to the drover, with a look of emotion, and exclaimed—"Forgive me, my friend, for any expression of mine that may have given you uneasiness; let my anxious heart, and the tortured state of my feelings, be my apology—I am sorry for it."

"I can read that, Maister Henry, by the look o’ yer een. But here’s Lucky Gillie’s house; stap in, sir, an’ ye shall hear a’ that I ken concerning Mrs Walton."

On entering the inn, they were shown up stairs to an unoccupied room, and after the drover had broken up the fire, and seated himself in front of it, he jocosely turned round to his young friend, and laying his brawny hand upon his shoulder, said—"Be seated, Maister Henry—there’s warse things than a guid fire in a cauld mornin’; I hope ye’ll mak yersel at hame here—it’s a friend’s house; for, ye see, sir, auld Lucky Gillie’s mither was the wife o’ the Watson that fell at Culloden; an’, though my faither an’ her faither werna full brithers, they were faither’s bairns but no mither’s—yet I hae aye looked on Lucky an’ mysel’ as unco sib. Say the word, Maister Henry—it’s what I like; shall we hae tongue—or ham—or baith? Faith, sir, it’s a bad thing takin’ unpleasant news, fresh an’ fastin’, intil an empty stamach in a raw morning—they’re nae better than physic."

"Upleasant news!" cried Henry, impatiently, rising from the chair where the hand of the other had half constrained him; "tell me, I pray you, where my poor wife is domiciled, and let me fly to her protection. Do not deceive me, nor torture me more by withholding from me your knowledge of her place of abode; for, if I am compelled to bear this agonising weight of suspense a few minutes longer, I shall be unfitted for the prosecution of my journey."

"Excuse me, maister Henry.’ said the drover, soothingly, "I wad hae had ye first to hae broken yer fast; but, as yer impatient to hear a’ that I ken about Mrs Walton, I’ll just tell ye, to mak a lang story short, that I gaed on the coach frae Burnpath to Edinbro’ wi’ her, an’ though I hadna the pleasure, for some time, o’ kenning that my travelling companion was nane other than your young wife, I wasna lang in discovering that the gentle creature was unfriended, an’ suffering under the weight o’ sorrow an’ distress. ‘I ask yer pardon, leddy,’ said I, when the coach stopped at the Black Bull; "do ye think, rna’am, I could be o’ ony service to ye,’ She thanked me, an’ seemed oppressed wi’ the offer I had made her; but, withoot mair ado, I handed her frae the coach, pushed aside the caddy bodies, an’ flung her trunk on to my ain shouther, an’ trudged off wi’ it to ‘Brown Square,’ to the house o’ a Maister Lindsay, that’s weel to do in the warld, were it no that his wife an’ twa o’ her dochters hae gaen clean mad wi’ pride. I’ll no deceive ye, Maister Henry; I was sae ta’en up about the way that Mrs. Walton micht be received by her Edinbro’ friends, that I cam up the next mornin’ frae the Grassmarket, an’ though I had naething on but my short grey-coat, leggums, an’ double-soled shoon—just as ye see me the noo—I made hold to inquire after the comfort o’ the dear young leddy at the house o’ Mr. Lindsay. When I knocked at the door, the impudent deevil o’ a callant, that they ca’ their footboy geegled ootricht in my face; but I stalked intil the parlour an’ made my bow; an’, in a short time, Mr. Lindsay an’ mysel’—for we were auld acquaintance,—felt the spirit o’ the past come owre us. We had glass after glass, to the happiness and prosperity o’ our mutual freend, till oor hearts became actually drunk wi’ joy. I perceived, in a minute, that Mr. Lindsay treated the dochter o’ his departed freend like his ain bairn; an’ though his wife was a puir, feckless, windlestrae o’ a creature, an’ his twa elder lasses mere buskit dolls, withoot either hearts or souls, yet I saw that the youngest ane was a leddy after Mrs. Walton’s ain heart; an’ I was convinced that my dear young freend, frae the liking that I discovered had sprung up between her an’ Misses Lindsay, an’ frae a’ that I kent o’ Mr. Lindsay, wad feel hersel at ease in his house."

"Did you inform Mary that you had met with me," inquired Henry, half choked with grief; "I hope in God you did not add my sorrows to her own."

"It was far frae me to think o’ doin’ the like," replied the drover. "I merely hinted, in a cautious an’ becoming manner, Maister Henry, that I had the honour—God kens hoo undeserved—o’ being a wee bit familiar wi’ her worthy husband, an’ I gaed on to mention a circumstance or twa connected wi’ your respected faither—Sir Robert Walton o’ Devonshire—naething to his disparagement, sir, but just sic as the price o’ his Arawbian mare, his great connexions, an’ the like; yet, instead o’ Mrs. Walton appearing uplifted wi’ the thocht o’ being the wife o’ a baronet’s son, she only answered me wi’ a dejected melancholy smile, an’ seemed to be completely miserable at the very idea o’ the grandeur that awaited her."

"And does she still reside in the house of her father’s friend?" inquired Henry, taking his hat in his hand, and evincing a disposition to proceed immediately on his journey.

"It’s mair than I can say," answered the drover, "but we shall soon ascertain, Maister Henry; for if ye’ll stop or I get my business dune, we can tak the afternoon coach, an’ drive straight through to Brown Square withoot mair ado."

Henry felt too unhappy to be able to embrace the kind proposal of his companion; and, after snatching a hasty breakfast, he bade his friend farewell, and posted off in a chaise for Edinburgh. He travelled all night, and a little after daybreak, the next morning, he found himself in the Scottish capital, long before the stir and bustle of life was heard in the streets. He silently bent his course to Brown Square, and hastily running over the brass plates attached to the doors of the more respectable of the houses his eyes at last fell upon the name of Mr. Lindsay. It was too early to disturb the inmates, but the thought that Mary was within, acted as a spell upon his heart, and he had not the power to take himself from the Square. He walked to and fro in front of Mr. Lindsay’s dwelling, and ever and anon, as he examined the movements of his watch, he blamed the wearisome length of the hours, and became half convinced, in his perturbation of mind, that time was lagging in its course. A servant at length opened the door, when Henry stepped up to her, and inquired if he could see Mr. Lindsay.

"It’s far owre sune to see the maister," answered the girl; "he’ll no be doun frae his room for a guid hour yet."

"But could you not find means to let him know," said Henry, earnestly, "that a gentleman wishes to see him on matters of the greatest moment?"

"It’s mair than my place is worth, sir," replied the servant, with a low curtsy; "but if ye wad leave yer name, I can gied intil the maister when I tak in the breakfast."

"Stop, my good girl," cried Henry, slipping a piece of silver into her hand, "perhaps you can inform me if Mrs. Walton is one of your visitors."

"That wad be the young leddy, sir, wi’ the bright hair," ejaculated the servant, "that the maister used to ca’ his angel! Na, na, sir, she’s no here now; she took shipping at Leith, and gaed awa some weeks sin’ syne, to seek out some o’ her braw friends in Lunnun. There’s naebody visiting here the now, but the upstart Dawsons o’ the Grass-market, that carried on the butchin."

Henry, speechless and trembling with emotion, rushed from the girl’s presence and proceeded through the streets, gazing frantically upon every one he met, till arriving at the inn, where he first alighted in the morning, he flung himself down in a paroxysm of most impatient agony, exclaiming, under the bitterness of disappointment, and the overwhelming impetuosity of his feelings—"My wife!—my Mary!— where—where shall I find her?"

Leaving Henry to retrace his steps from Edinburgh to Buckham Priory, we introduce the reader once more to Mr. Cuthbertson, Janet, and Mrs. Walton. It was in vain that the latter attempted to steal from their presence and to go in search of Henry; for Janet, now that she had found her whom she would willingly have laid down her life to serve, was determined that her "dear bairn," as she familiarly termed Mary, should no longer be subjected to the privations and misery she had so long endured.

"O bairn!" cried Janet, on Mary’s importuning her again to be allowed to leave her and Mr. Cuthbertson for a few hours—"yer miserable and restless as a house-bird, which, escaped from its cage, breaks its wings and its heart thegither, as it flutters without aim and without rest, frae place to place. I canna think o’ parting wi’ my winsome bairn; but if she’ll tell me what’s gaen wrang wi’ her, I’ll travel to the ends o’ the yearth to get back her peace and her happiness."

"My kind affectionate Janet," replied Mary, "be calm—all will be well. My poor, dear father has often told me to submit in all things to His will who bringeth good out of apparent evil; let us hope, then, that the successive misfortunes which have so long chequered the scenery of my life are drawing to a close, and that a better fortune awaits me."

"Dear sister," said Mr. Cuthbertson, enclosing the hand of Mary in his own, "let us proceed to Devonshire instantly and from the domestics o’ Buckham Priory we may learn some intelligence o’ Maister Henry."

"I know your goodness," replied Mary, wiping away the tears from her eyes, "and could you be instrumental in bringing me into the presence of my Henry, the blessing of heaven, and the lasting gratitude of a breaking and disconsolate heart shall be your meed of reward."

"Talk not o’ reward," said Mr. Cuthbertson, sorrowfully.

"Na! na! my dawtie!" ejaculated Janet, "we’re owre glad we hae found you; an’ what would we no do for you an’ Maister Walton? In troth, my bairn, if he’s no at hame—or if his folk dinna show ye that kindness your winsome innocence deserves—will ye promise, Mary, an’ I’ll just be content, to return for guid an’ a’ in the family carriage to Cuthbertson Lodge, an’ bring Maister Henry alang wi’ you?"

"Return, Janet!" cried Mary, struggling to suppress her emotion, "in my husband is bound up my happiness or misery; with him I could enjoy the sunshine of prosperity or welcome the long night of penury and wo; nor could the destruction of my heart’s last hope draw one murmur from my lips, or throw one shadow over my brow, to tell my Henry of an inward pang."

On the following morning, as Mr. Cuthbertson, in company with Mary and Janet, were setting off for Buckham Priory they were unexpectedly startled by a person thrusting his hand into the carriage window, and exclaiming—"Heaven preserve us!—do I dream?—or is this a delusion? I darna believe my een! Speak! young leddy, were it but ae word. Are ye no the minister’s daughter o’ Burnpath--the wife o’ Henry Walton?"

Mary uttered a loud shriek, and fell back in a swoon; but when she recovered she found herself supported in the arms of her husband, who had for some days, with the honest drover for his companion, been prosecuting his inquiries through London, in the hope of meeting with his wife. Their meeting may be more easily conceived than described. Henry and Mary wept through excess of happiness, but their tears were gilded with the smiles of hope and of bliss, and their past sufferings were swallowed up in the joyful anticipations of the future. Every facility was speedily afforded by Mr. Cuthbertson, in order that Henry and his young wife might appear at Buckham Priory in a-manner suiting their station. His family carriage was laid under contribution, and in a few hours the whole party left London for Devonshire. It may be here necessary to mention that Sir Robert Walton had arrived in England but a few weeks previous to this event, in restored health, from the island of Malta. On reaching his seat, his first care was to destroy the instrument that robbed his son; and he now strove to wipe off the injury he had intended him, by regarding Henry with the overweaning partiality which a doting father, in the decline of his years, is apt to manifest towards an only child. Henry had at once acknowledged his marriage to his father, and the latter was now, in pride and fondness, anxiously longing to welcome his daughter. The arrival of the party at Buckham Priory soon afforded him that joy. Every eye was contagious of felicity—every breast glowed with transport.

"Bless thee for thy choice, Hal!" exclaimed Sir Robert gazing with a look of pride alternately on both. "Thou art father’s own son! Thou hast given me the loveliest daughter in all England! And bless thee, too, my own best child," he added, turning to Mary; "thou shalt be happy as the day is long. Thou shalt be mistress of my house, and not even thy own Hal shall contradict thee; and I will settle a portion upon thee myself."

"Excuse me, sir," said Mr. Cuthbertson, "but my sister needs nae portion; why I call her sister ye will learn hereafter. I, sir, have been a lonely man, and a miserable man like a planet driven frae the universe, and plunging in deeper darkness through a’ eternity. But comfort has at last stolen owre my spirit, as an infant fa’s asleep to the lullaby o’ its mother and joy has again broken upon my head, like the first dawnmg o’ a summer morning. I have a right sir, to make reparation to your son and to my sister, for I have been (though innocently) the author o’ adeal o’ their afflictions; and at this happy meeting, if ony o’ ye feel mair joy than me; there are nane o’ ye feel a holier satisfaction. Henry," he added, "did the poor petition which ye wad see in the pocket-book I left wi’ ye, before I gaed to Scotland, meet your approbation?"

The pocket-book was still unopened, and Henry offered to return it, expressing the depth of his gratitude, and stating that he had not looked on its contents. "Keep it! keep it!" exclaimed the other, "ye will there find a copy o’ the instrument which conveys my sister’s portion."

It was in fact a copy of his will, bequeathing to her and her heirs, the estate of Cuthbertson Lodge, together with a thousand pounds, payable immediately by a banker in London.

Months of unmingled joy rolled over the party before they left the Priory. Sir Robert was about to enter proceedings against Northcott, when intelligence arrived that that disgrace of humanity had, by self-destruction, avoided a more public, though not more disgraceful, death.

Mary was a mother; and the sole delight of Mr. Cuthbertson was to act as preceptor to her children. He became at once their guardian and playmate, entering with the simplicity of a child into all their sports. The desolation of heart, of which he had been the victim, became like a half-remembered dream, or an autumnal storm that had passed away, and left the mellow beams of a setting sun to throw their softened light upon the plain. He never again parted from his friends, but remained with them in Devonshire, and every summer accompanied them to his own estate in Roxburghshire.

Old Janet lived to behold "her bairn’s" bairns, virtuous as their mother; and as age drew on, Sir Robert vowed he felt younger and happier every day. Henry and Mary made several visits to Burnpath, and caused a cottage to be built for the helpless old widow, in whose ruined hovel they had met upon the moors, and with whom Henry had left his purse. Thirty years have passed over their wedded lives and on them middle age has descended imperceptibly, as the calm twilight of a lovely evening, when the stars steal out, and the sunbeams die away; as a holy stillness glides through the air, like the soft breathings of an angel, unfolding from his celestial wings the rosy curtains of a summer night; and the conscious earth, kissed by the balmy spirit, dreams and smiles, and smiling dreams itself into the arms of night and of repose. Mary has lost somewhat of her sylph-like form, and Henry his elasticity of step, but they have become middle-aged together. They have half-forgotten the likeness of the face of their youth, yet still the heart of youth, with its imperishable affections and esteem, throbs in either bosom, smiling calmly upon time and its ravages, and still in the eyes of Henry, his partner seems as young, as fair, and as beautiful, as when, in the noontide of her loveliness, she blushingly vowed to be his upon his bosom. Their children have arisen around them and call them blessed, and they have beheld those children esteemed and honoured in society. Mary has taught Henry that virtue is always young, and that there is no true virtue which has not religion for its source; and Henry, in return, has taught Mary that "in the husband he has not forgotten that he is still her lover."


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