Having thus begun our story
in the middle, it is necessary that we go back and inform the reader, in a
few words, that Andrew Weir was a respectable farmer on the north side of
the Tweed, and, withal, a decent and devout Presbyterian, and an elder in
the kirk. Charles Lawson’s parents were originally from Northumberland.
They had known better days, and, at the period we have alluded to, were
struggling with a hard farm in the neighbourhood of Andrew Weir’s. Charles
was not exactly what his father-in-law had described him; and were we to
express his portrait in a line, we should say, he had blue eyes and
a broad brow, goodly form and an open heart. The ringlets which parted on
Elizabeth’s forehead were like the raven’s wing, and loveliness, if not
beauty, nestled round the dimples on her cheeks. Their affection for each
other began in childhood, and grew with their years, till it became strong
as their existence. A few weeks after Andrew Weir had delivered the advice
we have quoted to his daughter, Charles Lawson bade farewell to his
parents, his wife, and his country, and proceeded to India, where a
relative of his mother’s had amassed a fortune, and who, while he refused
to assist them in their distress, had promised to make provision for their
son. As we are not writing a novel in three volumes, we shall not describe
the scene of their parting, and tell with what agony, with what tears, and
with what bitter words, Charles tore himself from his father, his mother,
and his yet unacknowledged wife. The imagination of the reader may supply
the blank. Hope urged him to go—necessity compelled him.
After his departure
Elizabeth drooped like an early lily beneath the influence of a returning
frost. There were whisperings among the matrons and maidens of the
neighbouring village. They who had formerly courted her society began to
shun it; and even the rude clown who lately stood abashed in her presence,
approached her with indecent familiarity. The fatal whisper first reached
Andrew’s ear at a meeting of the kirk-session of which he was a member. He
returned home troubled in spirit, a miserable and an humbled man, for his
daughter had been his pride. Poor Elizabeth confessed that she was
married, and attempted to prove what she affirmed. But this afforded no
palliation of her offence in the eyes of her rigid and offended father.
"Oh, what hae I been born to suffer!" cried he, stamping his feet
upon the ground—"Oh, you witch o’ Endor!—you Jezebel!—you disgrace o’ kith
an’ kin! Could naething—naething serve ye but breaking yer puir auld
faither’s heart? Get out o’ my sicht!—get out o’ my sicht!" He remained
silent for a few moments—the parent arose in his heart—tears gathered in
his eyes. "But ye are still my bairn," he continued. "O Betty, Betty,
woman! what hae ye brought us to!" Again he was silent, and again
proceeded—"But I forgie ye, Betty—yes, if naebody else will, yer faither
will forgie ye for yer mother’s sake, for ye are a’ that I hae left o’
her. But we canna haud up our heads again, in this pairt o’ the
country—that’s impossible. I’ve lang thought o’ gaun to America, an’ now
I’m driven till’t."
He parted with his farm,
and in the ensuing spring proceeded with his daughter to Canada. We shall
not enter upon his fortunes in the new world—he was still broken in
spirit—and, after twelve years’ residence, he was neither richer nor
happier than when he left Scotland. Elizabeth was now a mother, and the
smiles of her young son, seemed to shorten the years of her exile;
yet, ever as she returned his smile, the thought of the husband of her
youth flashed back on her remembrance, and anguish and misery shot through
her bosom as the eagle darteth on its prey. Her heart was not broken, but
it fell like a proud citadel, burying the determined garrison.
Charles Lawson had not been
in India many months, when a party of native troops attacking the property
of his relative, Charles, who had fallen wounded amongst them, was carried
by them in their retreat into the interior of the country, where, for
several years, he was cut off from all intercourse or communication with
his countrymen. On obtaining his liberty, he found that his kinsman had
been some time dead, and had left him his heir. His wife—his
parents—doubt—anxiety—impatient affection—trembling hope, all hastened his
return. At length the white cliffs of Albion appeared before him, like a
fair cloud spread on the unruffled bosom of the ocean; and in a few days
more, the green hills of his childhood met his anxious eye.
It was the grey hour of a
summer night as he again approached the roof that sheltered his childhood.
His horse, as if conscious of supporting an almost unconscious rider,
stopped involuntarily at the threshold. He trembled upon the saddle as a
leaf that rustles in the wind. He raised his hand to knock at the door,
but again withdrew it. The inmates of the house aroused by the sound of a
horse stopping at the door, came out to inquire the cause. Charles gazed
upon them for a moment—it was a look of agony and disappointment--his
heart gave one convulsive throb, and the icy sweat burst from his temples.
"Does not—does not Mr. Lawson—live here?" he inquired almost gasping for
words to convey the question.
"Mr. Lawson! na, na, sir,"
replied the senior of the group, "it’s lang since he gaed awa. Ye ken he
gaed a’ wrang, puir man, and he’s no lived here since the hard winter, for
they didna come upon this parish."
"Did not come upon this
parish!" exclaimed Charles; "heaven and earth! what do you mean?"
"Mean! what wad I mean,"
answered the other, "but just that they were removed to their ain
parish—is there ony disgrace in that ?"
"Oh, my father!—-my poor
mother!" cried Charles, wildly.
"Mercy, sir," rejoined the
astonished farmer, "are ye Maister Charles?—bairns! haste ye, tak the
horse to the stable.—Losh, Charles, man, an’ how has ye been?—but ye dinna
ken me—man, I’m yer auld schoolfellow, Bob Graham and this is my wife,
Mysie Allan—ye mind of Mysie. Haste ye, Mysie lass, kill twa ducks, and
the bairns an’ me will hool the pease. Really Charles, man, I’m glad to
During this harangue,
Charles, led by his warm-hearted friend, had entered the dwelling of his
nativity; where Mr. Graham again continued—"Ye, aiblins, dinna ken that
auld Andrew Weir was sae sair in the dorts when ye gaed awa, that he set
off wi’ Betty for America. But I hear they are coming hame again this back
end. The bairn will be a stout callant now, and faith ye maun marry Betty,
for she is a mensefu’ lass."
Charles could only reply by
exclaiming—"America!— my wife!—my child!"
Having ascertained where he
would find his parents, early on the following morning he departed, and
about five in the afternoon, approached the village where he had been told
they resided. When near the little burying-ground, he stopped to look upon
the most melancholy funeral procession he had ever witnessed. The humble
coffin was scarce coloured, and they who bore it seemed tired of their
burden Three or four aged and poor-looking people walked behind it. Scarce
was it lowered into the grave, ere all departed save one, meanly clothed
in widow’s weeds, and bent rather with the load of grief than of years.
She alone lingered weeping over the hastily-covered grave.
"She seems poor," said
Charles, "and if I cannot comfort her, I may at least relieve her
necessities;" and fastening his horse to the gate he entered the
She held an old
handkerchief before her face, only removing it at intervals to steal a
hurried glance at the new made grave.
"Good woman." said Charles,
as he approached her, "your sorrows demand my sympathy—could I assist
"No! no!" replied the poor
widow, without raising her face—"but I thank you for your kindness. Can
the grave give up its dead?"
"But why should you remain
here?" said he, with emotion; "tell me, could not I assist you?" And he
placed a piece of money in her hand.
"No! no!" cried the widow,
bitterly, and raising her head; "oh, that Mary Lawson should have lived to
be offered charity on her husband’s grave!"
"My mother! gracious
Heaven! my mother!" exclaimed Charles, casting his arms around her neck.
Shall we describe the scene that followed?—we will not, we cannot. He had
seen his father laid in the dust, he had met his mother on his father’s
grave--but we will not go on.