"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
"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
"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?"
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
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."