Mrs. Holditch (the wife of
old Jonathan) was wandering up the lane in quest of her husband, wondering
at the length of his absence, and fretting for his return; for "the sweet
lady," as she termed Helen, "‘would nott take breakfast without them." She
had proceeded about half-a-mile from the cottage, when she was met by none
other than Laird Howison of Primrose Hall, and the following dialogue took
"Will ye hae the kindness
to inform me, ma’am if that person that used to keep the gate of Sir John
Blackett lives ony way aboot here?"
"He does sir," replied she, with a
"And, oh!" interrupted he,
earnestly, "know ye if there be a young leddy frae Scotland stopping there
at present—for I have heard that there is? Ye’ll no think me inquisitive
ma’am; for really if ye kenned what motive I hae for asking ye would think
it motive enough."
"There be your honour,"
returned she, "and a dear, excellent young lady she is."
"Oh! if it be her that I
mean," said he, "that she is dear, indeed, I have owre guid reason
to ken, and her excellence is written on every line of her beautiful
countenance. But if I am no detaining ye, ma’am, may I just ask her name?"
"She bade us call her
Helen, sir," replied she, "we know no other."
"Yes! yes!" cried he, "it’s
just Helen!—Helen, and nothing else to me! Mony a time has that name been
offered up wi’ my prayers. But I thought ma’am, ye said she bade you
call her Helen."
"Yes, your honour," said
she; "I be the wife of old Jonathan Holditch, and she be staying with us
"Bless you!" he exclaimed,
"for the shelter which your roof has afforded to the head o’ an orphan.
But, oh! What like is your Helen? Is her neck whiter than the
drifted snaw? Does her hair fa’ in gowden ringlets, like the clouds that
curl round the brows o’ the setting sun? Is her form delicate as the
willow, but stately as the young pine? Is her countenance beautiful as the
light o’ laughing day, when it chases sickness and darkness from the
chamber o’ the invalid? If she isna a’ this—if her voice isna sweeter than
the sough o’ music on the river—dear and excellent she may be, and they
may call her Helen—but, oh! she isna my Helen!—for there is none in the
world like unto mine. But, no!—she is not mine now!/ O
Helen, woman! did I expect this? Excuse me, ma’am, ye’ll think my conduct
strange; but, but, when my poor seared-up heart thinks o’ past enjoyment,
it makes me forget mysel’. Do ye think your Helen is the same that I hae
come to seek?"
"A sweeter and a lovelier
lady," said she, "never called Christian man father. She had business at
Winburn Priory; but my husband says she was driven away from the gate like
Is it her?" exclaimed he,
"and she’s no been at the Priory then?"
"No, sir," returned she.
"Nor seen ony o’ the
Blackett family?" added he, eagerly.
"No, sir; for there be none
of them in the neighbourhood," answered she.
"What’s this I hear?"cried
he:—"Gracious! if I may hope!—and why for no? But how is it that she is
stopping wi’ you?—wherefore did she not return to where she has been
cherished from infancy, and will aye be welcome. Has Helen forgot me
"Alas sir!" said she; "it
was partly grief, I believe, brought on a bad fever, and I had fears the
sweet, patient creature would have died in my hands. I sat by bedside,
watching night after night; and, oh! sir, I daresay how it was about you
that she sometimes talked, and wept, and laughed, and talked again, poor
"And did ye," he inquired,
fumbling with a pocket-book; "did ye watch owre her? I’m your
that. And ye think she spoke about
me—my name’s Howison, ma’am—Thomas Howison of Primrose Hall, the county o’
Dumfries. She would maybe call me Thomas!"
"Mr. Howison!I" replied the
old woman; "yes, your honour, she often mentioned such a name—very often."
"Did she really," added he;
"did she mention me?— and often speak about me—often? Then she’s no
forgotten me a’thegither!"
He thrust a bank-note into
the hands of Mrs. Holditch which she refused to accept, saying that "the
dear lady had more than paid her for all that she had done already." But
while she spoke, they had arrived within sight of the cottage, and he
suddenly bounded forward, exclaiming—
"Oh! haud my heart!" as he
beheld Helen, sitting looking from the window—"yonder she is! yonder she
is! O Helen! Helen!" he cried, rushing towards the door—"wherefore did ye
leave me?—why hae ye forsaken me? But joy o’ my heart, I winna upbraid ye;
for I hae found ye again."
With an agitated step, she
advanced to meet him—she extended her hand towards him—she faltered—"My
kind, kind benefactor."
He heard the words she
uttered—with a glance he beheld the marriage-ring upon her finger—he stood
still in the midst of his transport—his out-stretched arm fell by his
side—"O Helen. woman!" he cried in agony, "do ye really say benefactor?—that
isna the word to hear frae ye. Ye never ca’ed me benefactor
The few words spoken by the
old woman had called up his buried hopes; but the word benefactor
had again whelmed him in despair.
"Oh!" he continued, dashing
away the tears from his eyes, "my poor mind is flung away upon a
whirlwind, and my brain is the sport o’ every shadow! O Helen! I thought
ye had forgotten me!"
"Forgotten you, my kind
dear friend!" said she; "I have not, I will not, I cannot forget you; and
wherefore would you forget that I can only remember you as a friend?"
"Poor, miserable, and
deluded being that I am," added he; "I expected, from what the mistress o’
this house told me, that I wouldna be welcomed by the cauldrife names o’
friend or benefactor. Do ye mind since ye used to call me
"Mr. Howison," answered she, "I know
this visit has been made in kindness—let me believe in parental anxiety.
You have not now to learn that I am a wife, and you can have heard nothing
here to lead you to think otherwise. I will not pretend to misunderstand
you language. But by what name can I call you save that of friend?—it was
the first and the only one by which I have ever known you."
"No, Helen," cried he,
wringing her hand; "there was a time when ye only said Thomas! and
the sound o’ that ae word frae yer lips was a waif o’ music, which echoed,
like the vibrations o’ an angel’s harp, about my heart for hours and for
"If," added she, "from
having been taught by you to call you by that name in childhood, when I
regarded you as my guardian, and you condescended to be my playmate, will
you upbraid me with ceasing to use it now, when respect to you and to
myself demand the use of another? Or can you, by any act of mine, place
another meaning upon my having used it, than obedience to your wishes, and
the familiarity of a thoughtless girl? And, knowing this, is it possible
that the best of men will heap sorrow upon sorrow on the head of a
friendless and afflicted woman?"
"Oh, dinna say friendless, Helen,"
cried he; "friendless, ye canna be while I am in existence. Ye hae torn
the scales from my eyes, and the first use o’ sight has been to show me
that the past has been delusion, and that the future is misery, solitary
madness, or despair! And hae I
really a’ this time mistaen sweetness for love, and familiarity for
affection! Do ye really say that it was only familiarity, Helen?"
"The feelings of a sister
for a brother," she answered; "of a daughter for a father."
"True," said he; "I see it
now; I was, indeed, older than your father—I didna recollect that."
He sat thoughtful for a few
minutes, when Helen, to change the subject, inquired after her old
nurse, Janet White.
"Poor body," said he,
raising his head, "her spirits are clean gone. I understand she sits
mourning for you by the fire, cowering thegither like a pigeon that’s lost
its mate, or a ewe whose lamb has been struck dead by its side. It would
wring tears from a heart o’ stane to hear her lamenting, morning, noon,
and night, for her ‘dear bairn,’ as she aye ca’ed ye—rocking her head and
chirming owre her sorrow, like a hen bird owre its rifled nest. I had her
owre at the Hall the day after I cam back frae London, and just afore I
cam here to seek for ye. But there is naething aboot it that she tak’s
delight in noo. And, when I strove to amuse her, by taking her through the
garden and plantations (though I stood mair in need o’ comfort mysel’),
she would stand still and lean her head against a tree, in the very middle
o’ some o’ the bonniest spots, while a tear came rowing down her cheeks,
and look in my face wi’ such a sorrowful expression, that a thousand
arrows, entering my breast at once, couldna hae caused me mair agony. I
felt that I was a puir, solitary, and despised being, only cast in the
midst of a paradise, that my comfortless bosom might appear the blacker
and the more dismal. The puir auld body saw what was passing within me,
and she shook her head, saying, ‘Oh, sir! had I seen ye leading my bairn
down thir bonny avenues as your wife, Janet White would have been a happy
woman.’ Then she wrung her withered hands, and the tears hailed down her
cheeks faster and faster; while I hadna a word o’ consolation to say to
her, had it been to save my life. For the very chirping o’ the birds grew
irksome, and the young leaves and the silky flowers painful to look upon.
O Helen if ye only kenned what we a’ suffer on your account! If ye only
kenned what it is to have hope spired up, and affection preying upon your
ain heart for nourishment, ye wadna be angry at onything I say."
"Think not it is possible,"
she replied, while her tears flowed faster than her words; "but wherefore
feed a hopeless passion, the indulgence of which is now criminal?"
"Oh! forgie ye!" he
exclaimed vehemently; "dinna say that, Helen! Hopeless it may be, but not
criminal! That is the only cruel word I ever heard frae yer lips !
I didna think onybody would hae said that to me! Did you really say
criminal? But, oh! as matters stand, if ye’ed only alloo me to say
another word or twa anent the subject, and if ye wadna just crush me as a
moth, and tak pleasure in my agonies—or hae me to perish wi’ the sunless
desolation o’ my ain breast—ye’ll allow me to say them. They relate to my
last consolation—the last tie that links me and the world together!"
"Speak," said Helen; "let
not me be the cause of misery I can have power to prevent."
"Oh then!" replied he, "be not angry
at what I’m going to say; and mind that on your answer depends the future
happiness or misery o’ a fellow being. Yes, Helen! upon your word depends
life and hope—madness and misery: I say life and hope—for if ye destroy
the one, the other winna haud lang oot; and I say madness—for oh! if ye
had been a witness o’ the wild and the melancholy days and nights that I
hae passed since I learned that ye had left me, and felt my heart burning
and beating, and my brain loup, louping for ever, like a living substance,
and shooting and stinging through my head, like strings o’ fire, till I
neither kenned whar I was, nor what I did; but stood still or rushed out
in agony, and screamed to the wind, or gripped at the echo o’ my voice!—I
say, if ye had seen this, ye wadna think it strange that I made use o’ the
words. And now, as ye have heard nothing from—from Henry Blackett, from
the night that the ceremony o’ marriage was performed—and if ye shall hear
nothing o’ him for seven years to come, ye will then, ye ken, be at
liberty—and will ye say that I may hope then? O Helen, woman! say but the
word, and I’ll wait the seven years, as Jacob did for Rachel, and count
them but a day if my Helen, will bless me wi’ a smile o’ hope!"
As he thus spoke, Mrs.
Holditch bustled into the room, exclaiming—"O sweet lady, here be
one coming thee knows— see! see! there be my husband, and our own dear
young master Henry, come to make us happy again!"
"My Henry!" exclaimed
Helen, springing towards the door—"where—oh, where?"
"Here, my beloved! here!"
replied Henry, meeting her on the threshold.
Poor Laird Howison stood
dumb, his mouth open, his eyes extended, staring on vacancy. He beheld the
object of his delirious love sink into her husband’s arms, and saw no
more. He clasped his hands together, and with a deep groan, reeled against
the wall. Henry and Helen, in the ecstasy of meeting each other, were
unconscious of all around, and Willie Galloway was the first to observe
"Preserve us! you here too,
Mr. Howison?" said he. But the features of the laird remained rivetted in
agony, and betrayed no symptom of recognition. The mention of the laird’s
name by Willie, arrested the attention of Henry, and approaching him, he
said—"Sir, to you I ought to offer an apology."
The unhappy man wildly
grasped the hand of Henry, and seizing also Helen’s, he exclaimed—"It’s a’
owre now! The chain is forged, and the iron is round my soul. But I bless
you baith. Tak her! tak her!—and hear me, Henry Blackett—as ye would
escape wrath and judgment, be kind to her as the wrestlin’ winds and the
morning dews to the leaves o’ spring. Let it be your part to clothe her
countenance wi’ smiles and her bosom wi’ joy! Fareweel, Helen!—look
up!—let me for the last time look upon your face, and I will carry that
look upon my memory to the grave!"
"She gazed upon him wildly,
crying—"Stay!—stay!—you must not leave us!"
"Now!—now, it is past!" he
cried; "it was a sair struggle, but reason mastered it! Fareweel, Helen!—
Thus saying, he rushed out
of the house, and Willie Galloway followed him; but although fleet of
foot, he was compelled to give up the pursuit.
A few minutes after the
abrupt and wild departure of the laird, and before Helen had recovered
from the shock, the ruffians, who at the instigation of Norton, had hunted
after Henry to deliver him up to the government, and from whom he had
already twice escaped, rushed into the room, exclaiming—"Secure the
Henry sprang back to defend himself,
and Willie Galloway, who had returned, threw himself into a pugilistic
attitude. But Helen, stepping between her husband and his pursuers, drew a
paper from her bosom, and placing it in his hands, said—"My Henry is free!
he is pardoned!—the king hath signed it!—laugh at the bloodhounds!" And as
she spoke, she sank upon his breast. He opened the paper; it was his
pardon under the royal signature and the royal seal! "My own!—my wife!—my
wife!" cried Henry, pressing her to his heart, and weeping on her neck.
"That crowns a’," exclaimed Willie
Galloway; "O Helen!—what a lassie ye are!"
The ruffians slunk from the
room in confusion, and Willie informed them that the sooner they were out
of sight it would be the better for them.
Helen, on leaving Scotland,
had proceeded to Londou, where, through the interest of a friend of Laird
Howison’s, she gained access to the Duke of Cumberland, and throwing
herself at his feet, had, through him, obtained her husband’s pardon, and
that pardon she had carried next her bosom to his father’s house, hoping
to find him there.
Having divided this tale
into chapters, we now come to the
Henry being now pardoned
Willie Galloway advised that he should take his wife to his father’s
house, and remain there, adding—"Mind ye, Maister Henry, that possession
is nine points o’ law,—and if ye be in want o’ the matter o’ five hundred
pounds for present use, or for mair to prove your birthright at law, I am
the man that will advance it, and that will leave no stone unturned till I
see you righted."
Willie’s suggestion was
acted upon; and Henry and Helen took up their abode in the Priory, where
they had been but a few weeks, when he obtained information that his
father had fallen in a duel, and that his adversary was none other than
Squire Norton, the father of his then wife; but with his dying breath, he
declared, in the presence of his seconds, and invoked them to record it,
that his injured son Henry was his only and lawful heir.
"That," exclaimed Norton,
with a savage laugh over his dying antagonist, "it will cost him some
trouble to prove!"
The murderer, in the name
of a child which his daughter had borne to Sir Iohn, had the hardihood to
enter legal proceedings to obtain the estate.
Henry applied to the parish
of Glencleugh for the register of his mother’s marriage; but no such
record was found. Old Dugald Mackay had a dreamy recollection of such a
marriage taking place, but he said—"It pe very strange that it isna in te
pook; hur canna swear to it."
Many thought that the day
would be given against Henry, and pitied him; but before judgment was
pronounced in the case, young Norton was found guilty of forgery, and
condemned to undergo the last severity of the law. Previous to his
ignominious death, in the presence of witnesses, he confessed the injury
he had done to Henry, by tearing the leaves from the parish-register, and
directed where they might be found. They were found—old Norton fled from
the country, and Henry obtained undisputed possession of the estate; but
on his father’s widow and child he settled a competency.
Laird Howison’s sorrow
moderated as his years increased; and when Henry and Helen had children,
and when they had grown up to run about, he requested that they should be
sent to him every year, to pull the primroses around Primrose Hall; and
they were sent. One of them, a girl, the image of her mother, he often
wept over, and said he hoped to live to love her as he had loved her
mother. Willie Galloway often visited his friends in Cheshire, and
remained "Canny Willie" to the end of the chapter.