"Here," said he, "Sleep
some of my father’s children, who died in infancy."
He picked up a small stone
from the ground, and, throwing it gently about ten yards, "That," added
he, "is the very spot. But thank God! No grave-stone has been raised
during my absence! It is a token I shall find my parents living;" and,
continued he, with a sigh, "may I also find their love! It is hard, sir,
when the heart of a parent is turned against his own child."
He dropped his head upon
his breast for a few moments and was silent; and, hastily raising his
forefinger to his eyes, seemed to dash away a solitary tear. Then, turning
to me, he continued—"You may think, sir, this is weakness in a soldier;
but human hearts beat beneath a red coat. My father, whose name is
Campbell, and who was brought from Argyleshire while young, is a wealthy
farmer in this neighbourhood. Twelve years ago, I loved a being gentle as
the light of a summer moon. We were children together, and she grew in
beauty on my sight, as the star of evening steals into glory through the
twilight. But she was poor and portionless, the daughter of a mean
shepherd. Our attachment offended my father. He commanded me to leave her
for ever. I could not, and he turned me from his house. I wandered—I knew
not, and I cared not, whither. But I will not detain you with my history.
In my utmost need, I met a sergeant of the forty-second, who was then upon
the recruiting service, and, in a few weeks, I joined that regiment of
proud hearts. I was at Brussels when the invitation to the wolf and the
raven rang at midnight through the streets. It was the herald of a day of
glory and of death. There were three Highland regiments of us—three joined
in one—joined in rivalry, in love, and in purpose; and, thank Fate! I was
present when the Scots Greys, flying to our aid, raised the electric
shout, ‘Scotland for ever!’—‘Scotland for ever!’ returned our tartaned
clansmen; ‘Scotland for ever!’ reverberated as from the hearts we had left
behind us; and ‘Scotland for ever!’ re-echoed ‘Victory!’ Heavens!" added
he, starting to his feet, and grasping his staff as the enthusiasm of the
past gushed back upon his soul, "to have joined in that shout was to live
an eternity in the vibration of a pendulum!"
In a few moments, the
animated soul, that gave eloquence to his tongue, drew itself back into
the chambers of humanity, and, resuming his seat upon the low wall, he
continued—"I left my old regiment with the prospect of promotion, and have
since served in the West Indies; but I have heard nothing of my
father—nothing of my mother—nothing of her I love!"
While he was yet speaking,
the grave-digger, with a pick-axe and a spade over his shoulder, entered
the ground. He approached within a few yards of where we sat. He measured
off a narrow piece of earth—it encircled the little stone which the
soldier had thrown to mark out the burial-place of his family. Convulsion
rushed over the features of my companion; he shivered—he grasped my
arm—his lips quivered—his breathing became short and loud—the cold sweat
trickled from his temples. He sprang over the wall—he rushed towards the
"Man!" he exclaimed in
agony, "whose grave is that?"
"Hoot, awa wi’ ye!" said
the grave-digger, starting back at his manner; "whatna way is that to
gliff a body!—are ye daft?"
"Answer me," cried the
soldier, seizing his hand "whose grave—whose grave is that?"
"Mercy me!" replied the man
of death, "ye’re surely out o’ yer head; its an auld body they ca’d Adam
Campbell’s grave; now are ye onything the wiser for speirin?"
"My father!" cried my
comrade, as I approached him; and, clasping his hands together, he bent
his head upon my shoulder, and wept aloud.
I will not dwell upon the
painful scene. During his absence, adversity had given the fortunes of his
father to the wind; and he had died in an humble cottage, unlamented and
unnoticed by the friends of his prosperity.
At the request of my
fellow-traveller, I accompanied him to the house of mourning. Two or three
poor cottagers sat around the fire. The coffin with the lid open, lay
across a table near the window. A few white hairs fell over the whiter
face of the deceased, which seemed to indicate that he died from sorrow
rather than from age. The son pressed his lips to his father’s cheek. He
groaned in spirit, and was troubled. He raised his head in agony and with
a voice almost inarticulate with grief, exclaimed, inquiringly—"My
The wondering peasants
started to their feet and in silence pointed to a lowly bed. He hastened
forward—he fell upon his knees by the bed-side.
"My mother!—Oh my mother!"
he exclaimed, "do not you too leave me! Look at me—speak to me—I am your
own son—your own Willie—have you, too, forgot me mother?"
She, too, lay upon her
death-bed, and the tide of life was fast ebbing; but the remembered voice
of her beloved son drove it back for a moment. She opened her eyes—she
attempted to raise her feeble hand, and, it fell upon his head. She spoke,
but he alone knew the words that she uttered, they seemed accents of
mingled anguish, of joy, and of blessing. For several minutes he bent over
the bed, and wept bitterly. He held her withered hand in his; he started;
and, as we approached him, the hand he held was stiff and lifeless. He
wept no longer—he gazed from the dead body of his father to that of his
mother; his eyes wandered wildly from the one to the other; he smote his
hand upon his brow, and threw himself upon a chair, while misery
transfixed him, as if a thunderbolt had entered his soul.
I will not give a
description of the melancholy funerals, and the solitary mourner. The
father’s obsequies were delayed, and the son laid both his parents in the
Some months passed away
before I gained information respecting the sequel of my little story.
After his parents were laid in the dust, William Campbell, with a sad and
anxious heart, made inquiries after Jeanie Leslie, the object of his early
affections, to whom we have already alluded. For several weeks, his search
was fruitless; but, at length, he learned that considerable property had
been left to her father by a distant relative, and that he now resided
somewhere in Dumfriesshire.
In the same garb which I
have already described, the soldier set out upon his journey. With little
difficulty he discovered the house. It resembled such as are occupied by
the higher class of farmers. The front door stood open. He knocked, but no
one answered. He proceeded along the passage—he heard voices in an
apartment on the right—again he knocked, but was unheeded. He entered
uninvited. A group were standing in the middle of the floor; and, amongst
them, a minister, commencing the marriage-service of the Church of
Scotland. The bride hung her head sorrowfully, and tears were stealing
down her cheeks—she was his own Jeanie Leslie. The clergyman paused. The
bride’s father stepped forward angrily, and inquired— "What do ye want,
sir?" but, instantly recognising his features, he seized him by the
breast, and, in a voice half-choked with passion, continued—"Sorrow tak ye
for a scoundrel! What’s brought ye here--and the mair especially at a time
like this! Get oot o’ my house, sir! I say, Willie Campbell, get oot o’ my
house, and, never darken my door again wi’ yer ne’er-do-weel countenance!"
A sudden shriek followed
the mention of his name, and Jeanie Leslie fell into the arms of her
"Peace, Mr. Leslie!" said
the soldier, pushing the old man aside; "since matters are thus, I will
only stop to say farewell, for auld langsyne—you cannot deny me that."
He passed towards the
object of his young love. She spoke not—she moved not—he took her hand;
but she seemed unconscious of what he did. And, as he again gazed upon her
beautiful countenance, absence became as a dream upon her face. The very
language he had acquired during their separation was laid aside. Nature
triumphed over art, and he addressed her in the accents in which he had
first breathed love, and won her heart.
"Jeanie!" said he, pressing
her hand between his, "it’s a sair thing to say fareweel; but, at
present I maun say it. This is a scene I never expected to see; for, O
Jeanie! I could have trusted to your truth and love, as the farmer trusts
to seed-time and to harvest, and is not disappointed. O Jeanie, woman!
this is like separating the flesh from the bones, and burning the marrow.
But ye maun be anither’s now—fareweel!—fareweel!"
"No! no—my ain Willie!" she
exclaimed, recovering from the action of stupefaction: "my hand is still
free, and my heart has aye been yours—save me, Willie! save me!" And she
threw herself into his arms.
The bridegroom looked from
one to another, imploring them to commence an attack upon the intruder;
but he looked in vain. The father again seized the old grey coat of the
soldier, and almost rending it in twain, discovered underneath, to the
astonished company, the richly laced uniform of a British soldier. He
dropped the fragment of the outer garment in wonder, and at the same time
dropping his wrath, exclaimed, "Mr Campbell!—or what are ye?—will you
A few words explained all.
The bridegroom, a wealthy middle-aged man without a heart, left the house,
gnashing his teeth. Badly as our military honours are conferred, merit is
not always overlooked even in this country, where money is everything, and
the Scottish soldier had obtained the promotion he deserved. Jeanie’s joy
was like a dream of heaven. In a few weeks she gave her hand to Captain
Campbell of his Majesty’s—regiment of infantry, to whom, long years
before, she had given her young heart.