Hanging and marriage, they
say, go by destiny. Of the first, being a very ugly subject, we do not
choose to say anything; but it is certain that the last is frequently the
offspring of curious chances. A remarkable instance of this occurred,
about seventy years ago, in the case of a young lady, the daughter of a
Highland clergyman, in one of the remote western isles of Scotland.
The name of this clergyman
was M’Ivor. A worthy and good man he was, but one little known to fame.
His situation was a distant and obscure one, and but rarely visited by
strangers. The island itself is only some ten or fifteen miles in
circumference. The number of its inhabitants does not— at least did not at
the time of which we speak—exceed 150 in number.
At the head of a little
bay, by which the island is indented near its centre, on the east side,
the minister’s "modest mansion rose." It was a plain two-story house, with
a slate roof and bright white-washed walls. From the sea, its appearance
was attractive, although, perhaps, this arose as much from the
circumstance of its standing alone as from any superior elegance of which
it could boast. It was, in truth, a very homely domicile; but it was
unrivalled—there being no other slate-roofed house in the island, nor one
in any way approaching it in pretension; and hence the dignity in which it
Mr M’Ivor’s daughter, whose
name was Mary, was a fair-haired, beautiful girl of some seventeen years
of age, or thereabouts. Remote and obscure as her situation was, and
equally obscure as her destiny was likely to be, Mary’s education had not
been neglected. Her father, who was a learned and accomplished man, had
early imbued her with a taste for polite literature, and had taught her to
read the French and Italian languages with readiness and fluency.
To complete her education,
and to afford her an opportunity of seeing a little of the world, he had
sent her to Edinburgh for two successive seasons, where she had added to
her other accomplishments a very competent knowledge of music and drawing.
Mary M’Ivor had now returned to her
father’s house for good and all; or, at least, until some of those changes
should occur by which the course of human life is chequered. Yet did the
fair girl seem, from the circumstances in which she was placed, to be one
of those flowers which are doomed to—
"Waste their sweetness on the
for who would think of
seeking, or expect to find, so lovely and accomplished a being in so rude
and remote a corner of the world? But odd things will happen. They are
happening every day. Few, however, more odd have occurred, as the reader,
we think, will allow, than that this lonely flower should; in less
than twelve’ months from the period at which we first introduce her to the
reader, be seen blooming in some of the gayest saloons of Paris,
attracting and commanding the admiration of all; that Mary M’Ivor, the
daughter of an obscure Highland clergyman, should, within that time, be
mistress of one of the most magnificent chateaus on the banks of the
Seine. Yet so it was.
One stormy afternoon, a
vessel was driven, by stress of weather, into the little bay, at the head
of which stood the minister’s manse. Shortly after the vessel came to
anchor, a boat pushed off from her and made for the shore.
Mr M’Ivor, on perceiving,
from the window of his study; the boat approaching, hastened down stairs,
called to his daughter Mary to throw her plaid around her, and to
accompany him to the shore to receive the strangers, and to invite them to
the manse—a hospitality which the worthy man extended to every stranger
who visited the island. The persons in the boat, besides the men who rowed
her, were the captain of the vessel, and a tall, swarthy,
gentlemanly-looking young man, having the appearance of a foreigner; and
such he really was. Mr M’Ivor having introduced himself and his daughter
to the strangers, invited them to the manse. The invitation was at once
accepted, and with many expressions of thanks.
Hitherto the conversation
had been conducted, on the part of the strangers, entirely by the captain,
who was an Englishman; his companion, if such a term will apply to one
whom he seemed to treat with the utmost deference and respect,
understanding nothing of the English language. The captain now informed Mr
M’Ivor that his passenger was a French nobleman, the Count de l’Orme. That
he had taken a passage by him at Bordeaux for Liverpool, on an intended
visit to England, and that they had been thus far driven out of their
course by contrary winds.
On learning these
particulars, Mr M’Ivor, who spoke French with tolerable fluency,
immediately addressed the count in that language. The latter, at once
surprised and delighted to find his native tongue understood by their
proposed entertainer, became lively, cheerful, and communicative. But when
he discovered—which he soon did, by her looks of intelligence, and her
earnest attention to what he and her father were saying—that the fair girl
who leant on the arm of the latter, also understood the French language;
his delight knew no bounds.
From that moment, he
directed the most pointed attentions to her, and with the graceful manners
of the ancient chivalry of France, sought, and not in vain, to render
himself agreeable in the eyes of Mary M’Ivor.
In the meantime, the party
proceeded to the manse, beguiling the way with a lively conversation, in
which the blushing little island maiden was led to take a part, by the
courtesies and gallantries of the noble stranger.
On gaining the manse, the
visitors were ushered into the minister’s comfortable little parlour,
where they were hospitably entertained until a pretty late hour of the
night, when the count proposed that he and the captain should return on
board. To this proposal their kind-hearted host would not listen, but
insisted that they should take up their quarters in the manse till the
vessel sailed. His guests, at first, objected to this arrangement; but it
was finally settled that the captain should return on board, and that the
count should remain.
From the moment in which
the count first saw Miss M’Ivor, he appeared to have been struck with her
beauty; for frequent and earnest were the gazes which he fixed on her fair
countenance, and the subsequent discovery of her accomplishments, her
refined tastes, and highly cultivated mind, which his residence at the
manse enabled him to make, completed the conquest which her beauty had
For a week, the vessel by
which the Count de l’Orme was passenger was detained by contrary winds in
the little bay of Machray; and, during all this time, the latter was an
inmate of the manse.
But was it, indeed, adverse
winds that detained the vessel so long? We doubt it. Well, then, if truth
must be told, it was not. On the very next day she might have sailed, but
a word in the captain’s ear from the count, with a whisper of sample
indemnification to himself and owners, kept the ship at her anchors for a
Ere that week had expired,
however, the Count de l’Orme had, with the consent of her father, made
offer of his hand to Mary M’Ivor. It was accepted, and in a month after,
the count, who had in the meantime fulfilled his intention of visiting
England, and who had, during the same interval, made the necessary
arrangements for his marriage, returned with a friend to the lonely little
Scottish isle to claim his island bride.
The ceremony of their
marriage was performed by Miss M’Ivor’s father.
In fourteen days after, the
Countess de l’Orme was installed in the magnificent Chateau de Chauvergne,
on the banks of the Seine, as mistress of all its wealth, and of the fair
domains that spread far and wide around it.