At the age of three and
twenty, and while he yet lived with his father, Adam married. His parents
offered no opposition to his wishes, for the object of his choice was a
maiden of sweet and gentle disposition, and of blameless character; and,
though poor, they trusted that her influence would arouse their son to
habits of industry and exertion. Some said that she had made a good match,
because, being the daughter of a simple shepherd, she had married the only
son of a farmer; but there were others who observed more closely, and who
saw deeper, that shook their heads, and said, "she was too good for bis
wife." But it is frequently difficult to account for a woman’s affections:
the cause that produced them is often mysterious, as their depth is
intense. A thousand bards have sung of WOMAN’S LOVE, and, although
"nae poet in a sense,
But just a rhymer like by chance,"
I shall interrupt my story
for a minute’s space, to sing it also.
Say not it is the flickering flame
That all have felt—that all must feel—
Which comes, and goeth as it came—
That fleeteth, changeth, as the wheel
Of caprice or young fancy turns;
Nay, ‘tis the strong, the deep emotion
Of the full heart whose deep devotion
Through adverse fate and coldness burns,
That marks a woman’s love.
Oh, ‘tis a glad, a holy glow—
An angel’s dream—a seraph’s bliss—
A theft from heavenly joy to know—
To feel, to own, to know but this:
That there is one—a lovely one—
The life, the partner of our being—
Who, all our faults and follies seeing,
Can love, and love but us alone,
With all a woman’s love.
Within her bosom is a fire
That burneth with a light divine
Which, when opposing ills conspire
To cloud the soul, will burst—will shine
Within, around—and joyous throw
A ray of hope o’er him she loveth,
Till heaven the kindred flame approveth,
And half the pain of fate—of woe,
Is lost in woman’s love.
Such a woman became the
wife of Adam Black; but, although he was proud of her love, though he was
conscious of it and jealous of it, he had not principle enough within him
to appreciate it. She, therefore, produced no abiding change upon his
habits; and although, in a measure, he was broken from them for a time,
within three months he returned to them as the swine doth to its wallowing
in the mire. For some weeks she occupied his thoughts, and her words had
influence; but he returned again to his dog and to his gun—her counsel
became irksome—he received it peevishly, and he thought as little of her
as of his duties on the farm.
Within the first year after
his marriage his mother died, and, in the third year, a paralytic stroke
fell upon his father, as though death had tapped him on the shoulder,
saying—"Come." The old man felt that his days were numbered—that the last
warning had been given; and he called his son to his bedside, and said—
"Adam! I am about to leave
you; and, O man, will ye listen to a faither’s dying advice?"
"Yes, faither! yes!" cried
Adam—for I have said that he was warm-hearted—and he wept as he spoke.
"Oh, then, my son,"
continued the old man, "hearken to my last words—the last words o’ yer
faither, Adam. I dinna say that ye are vicious, but, oh! ye hae been
thoughtless—ye are far from what I would wish to see ye. It is’na meikle
that I hae to leave ye; but if ye dinna take care o’t, it will waste frae
amang your hands like snaw aff a dike. Ye are now also a faither, and a
young family are rising around ye; and, oh, for their sakes, and for the
sake o’ the mother that bore them, see that ye set them the example o’ a
Christian, that they may not rise up as witnesses against you at the great
day. Do ye hear me, Adam? O, my son, say that ye will follow your
faither’s dying injunction, and I will die in peace."
Adam wrung his father’s
hand, and hid his face upon the bed to conceal his agony. "It is enough,"
said the dying man—"thank God, the voice of conscience is not dumb in the
breast of my bairn!"
On the death of his father,
Adam became the occupier of the farm; but he neglected it, and I need not
say that, in return, fortune neglected him. His fields and his crops
became a jest among his neighbours, and the former they called "Idle
Adam’s pleasure-grounds." But the lease expired, and, because he had been
a slothful tenant, the landlord refused to renew it.
The money which his father
had left him, was reduced to about a hundred pounds, when he was compelled
to leave the farm, and he removed with his family to a small cottage which
stood on the road-side, in a lonely part of the country, and about ten
miles from the farm on which he had been brought up. Here Adam took up his
abode as though the hundred pounds would provide for his family for ever.
He did nothing, save to
prowl about behind the hedges with his gun over his arm, or, in the dead
of night, to rob the preserves of the gentlemen in the neighbourhood. His
poor wife strove anxiously, and with tears, to reclaim him—to arouse him
to honest exertion. She reminded him of the destitution that was creeping
around them, and every day narrowing its circle. She drew her infant
children round his knees, and implored him to provide for them. But his
answer was, "We shall do well enough—I will be my own master."
"Ày," replied she, "and the
slave of the law!"
"Hang the law!" returned
he; "what care I for the law!"
For a time their cottage
had an appearance of cleanliness and neatness, but gradually it began to
exhibit the marks of poverty and wretchedness, as her spirit broke, and
she found her love lost, and her counsel of no avail. Old garments
supplied the place of glass in one-half of the window—the well-scoured and
sanded threshold was no longer visible, but stagnant water lay in little
pools before the door, and around them ragged and squallid children
quarrelled with each other.
They were sent to no
school—it was but little instruction that their mother could give them;
and the little she endeavoured to give, the example of their father
destroyed. The only education they received was such as would enable them
to become poachers like himself; and before the eldest was seven years of
age, he was sent to the neighbouring towns to sell the game which his
father had destroyed.
People wondered how Adam
Black lived, for he wrought none; and although they knew him to be a
poacher, they could not see how by such means he provided food for himself
and family. And although his children were in rags, and his wife never
seen, his appearance approached what might be termed respectable. He wore
a large velvet coat, made after the fashion of a sportsman’s, and, in
general, his vest and trousers were of the same material. Every day his
voice was heard in the ale-house of a neighbouring village, and by his
side, on such occasions, crouched a dog of the pointer breed—a living
emblem of hunger and leanness.
But famine often pressed
hard upon his family; and when he would have wrought for them, no one
would employ him; and once, when want gnawed at his heart, and remorse
stung his soul, he would have lifted up his hand against his own life, had
not the daughter of a Mr. Nisbet, who was the clergyman of the parish, at
the very moment, like an angel of mercy, visited the cottage, and, having
heard of the destitution of its inmates, come to relieve them.