"The music of sweet sounds;"
and sensible only of the
jink of the coin of the realm. Others called him "Daft Peter," for
he was the leader of frolic, fun, and harmless mischief; but now the
maidens of the village also began to call him "Handsome Peter." Yet, he of
whom they thus spoke, would wander for hours alone by the beach of the
solitary sea, gazing upon its army of waves warring with the winds, till
his very spirit took part in the conflict; or he could look till his eyes
got blind on its unruffled bosom, when the morning sun flung over it, from
the horizon to the shore, a flash of glory; or, when the moonbeams, like a
million torches shooting from the deep, danced on its undulating
billows—then would he stand, like an entranced being, listening to its
everlasting anthem, while his soul, awed and elevated by the magnificence
of the scene, worshipped God the Creator of the great sea. With all his
reputed wildness, and with all his thoughtlessness, even on the sea banks,
by the wood, and by the brae-side, Peter found voiceless, yet to him
eloquent companions. To him the tender primrose was sacred as the first
blush of opening womanhood; and he would converse with the lowly daisy,
till his gaze seemed to draw out the very soul of the
"Wee, modest, crimson-tipped
It, however, grieved his
mother’s spirit to see him, as she said, "Just idlin’ awa his time, and
leaving his learning at his heels." His father now said—"Let him just tak
his fling an’ find his ain weight-an’ he’ll either mak a spoon or spoil a
horn, or my name’s no Robin Paterson." But, from Peter’s infancy, it had
been his mother’s ambition and desire to live to see him, as she expressed
it, "wag his pow in a poopit," or, at any rate, to see him a gentleman. On
one occasion, therefore, when Robin was at Dunse hiring-market, the
schoolmaster having called on his old pupil, "Ne’er-do-weel, Peter," the
two entered into a controversy in the presence of Peter’s mother, and, in
the course of the discussion, the man of letters was dumfoundered by the
fluency and force of the arguments of his young antagonist. Silent tears
of exultation stole into Betty’s eyes, to hear, as she said, "her
bairn expawtiate equal—ay, superior to ony minister;" and no sooner had
the teacher withdrawn, than, fixing her admiring eyes on her son, she
"O Peter, man, what a
delivery ye hae!—an’ sae fu’ o’ the dictioner’! Troth but ye wad cut a
figure i’ the poopit! There wad nae dust gather on your cushion—there wad
be nae sleeping, nodding, or snoring, while my Peter was preachin’. An’,
oh, hinny, but ye will mak me a glad mother, if ye’ll consent to gang to
the college! Ye wadna be lang o’ gettin’ a kirk, my man—I can tell ye
that: an’ if ye’ll only consent to gang, ye shanna want pocket-money that
your faither kens naething about—my bairn shall appear wi’ the best o’
them. For sine ever ye was an infant, it has aye been my hope an my
prayer, Peter, to see ye a minister; an’ I ne’er sent a hunder eggs or a
basket o’ butter to the market, but Peter’s pennies were aye laid aside,
to keep his pockets at the college."
Peter was, in the main, a
most dutiful and most affectionate son; but on this point he was strangely
stubborn; and he replied—
"Wheesht, mother! wheesht!
nae mair aboot it."
"Nae mair aboot it, bairn!"
said she; "but I maun say mair aboot it;—man! wad ye fling awa your
learnin’ at a dyke-side, an’ yer talents at a pleugh-tail? Wad ye just
break yer mother an’ faither’s heart? O Peter! Peter, man, hae ye nae
spirit ava?—What is yer objection?"
"Weel, keep your temper,
mother," said he, "an I’ll tell ye candidly:—The kirk puts a strait-jacket
on a body that I wadna hae elbow-room in!"
"What do ye mean, ye
graceless?" added she, in a voice betokening a sort of horror.
"Oh, naething particular;
only, for example, sic bits o’ scandal as—the Reverend Peter Paterson was
called before the session for shooting on his ain glebe—or, the Reverend
Peter Paterson was summoned before the presbytery for leistering a salmon
at the foot o’ Tammy the Miller’s dam— or, the Reverend Peter Paterson was
ordered to appear before the General Assembly for clappin’ Tammy the
Miller’s servant lassie on the shouther, an’ ca’ing her a winsome
impatient and mortified mother— "Oh, ye forward an’ profane rascal ye! how
daur ye speak in sic a strain—or wad ye be guilty o’ sic unministerial
conduct?—wad ye disgrace the coat by sic ungodly behaviour?"
"There’s nae sayin’
mother," added he; "but dinna be angry—I’m sure, if I did either shoot,
leister, or clap a bonny lassie on the shouther, ye wadna think it unlike
your son Peter."
"Weel, weel," said the
good-natured matron, softened down by his manner; "it’s true your faither
says—its nae use striving against the stream; an’ a’ gifts arena graces.
But if ye’ll no be a minister, what will ye be? Wad ye no like to be a
writer or an advocate?"
"Worse an’ worse, mither! I
wad rather beg than live on the misery of another."
"Then, callant," added
Betty, shaking her head, and sighing as she spoke—"I dinna ken what we’ll
do wi’ ye. Will ye no be a doctor?"
"What!" said Peter,
laughing, and assuming a theatrical attitude—"an apothecary!—make an
apothecary of me, and cramp my genius over a pestle and
mortar? No mother—I will be a farmer, like my father before me."
"Oh, ye ne’er-do-weel, as
your maister ca’s ye!" said his mother, as she rose and left the room in a
passion; "ye’ll be a play-actor yet, an’ it will be baith seen an’ heard
tell o’ an’ bring disgrace on us a’."
Peter was, however,
spell-bound to the vicinity of Foxlaw by stronger ties than an aversion to
the college or a love for farming. He was about seventeen, when a Mr.
Graham, with his wife and family, came and took up his residence in one of
the respectable-looking houses adjacent to the village. Mr. Graham had
been a seafaring man—it was reported the master of a small privateer; and
in that capacity had acquired, as the villagers expressed it, "a sort o’
money." He had a family of several children; but the eldest was a lovely
girl called Ann, about the same age as Peter Paterson. Mr. Graham was fond
of his gun, and so was Peter; they frequently met on the neighbouring
moors, and an intimacy sprang up between them. The old sailor also began
to love his young companion; for though a landsman, he had a bold reckless
spirit: he could row, reef, and steer, and swim like an amphibious animal;
and, though only a boy, he was acknowledged to be the only boxer, and the
best leaper, runner, and wrestler in the country side—moreover, he could
listen to a long yarn, and, over a glass of old grog, toss off his
heeltaps like a man; and these qualifications drawing the heart of the
skipper toward him, he invited him to his house. But here a change came
over the spirit of reckless, roving Peter. He saw Ann; and an invisible
hand seemed suddenly to strike him on the breast. His heart leaped to his
throat. His eyes were riveted. He felt as if a flame passed over his face.
Mr. Graham told his longest stories, and Peter sat like a
simpleton—hearing every word, indeed, but not comprehending a single
sentence. His entire soul was fixed on the fair being before him—every
sense was swallowed up in sight. Ringlets of a shining brown were parted
over her fair brow; but Peter could not have told their colour—her soft
blue eyes occasionally met his, but noted not their hue. He beheld her
lovely face, where the rose and the lily were blended—he saw the almost
sculptured elegance of her form; yet it was neither on these—on the
shining ringlets, nor the soft blue eyes—that his spirit dwelt; but on Ann
Graham, their gentle possessor. He felt as he had never felt before; and
he knew not wherefore.
Next day, and every day,
found Peter at the house of Captain Graham; and often as love’s own hour
threw its grey mantle over the hills, he was to be seen wandering with the
gentle Ann by his side, on the sea banks, by the beach, and in the
unfrequented paths. Again and again, when no eye saw them, and when no ear
heard them, he had revealed the fulness of his heart before her; and, in
the rapture of the moment, sealed his truth upon her lips; while she, with
affection too deep for words, would fling her arm across his shoulder, and
hide her face on his breast to conceal the tear of joy and of love.
His parents looked upon Ann
as their future daughter; and, with Peter, the course of "true love ran
smooth." A farm had been taken in an adjoining parish, on which he was to
enter at the following Whitsunday; and on taking possession of his farm,
Ann Graham was to become his bride. Never did exile long more ardently for
his native land, than did Peter Paterson for the coming of Whitsunday;
but, ere it came, the poetical truth was verified, that
"The course of true love
never did run smooth."
Contiguous to the farm of
Foxlaw, lay the estate of one Laird Horslie—a young gentleman but little
known in the neighbourhood; for he had visited it but once, and that only
for a few weeks, since it came into his possession. All that was known of
him was, that he wrote J. P. after his name—that he was a hard landlord,
and had the reputation of spending his rents faster than his factor could
forward them to him. To him belonged the farm that had been taken for
Peter; and it so happened, that, before the Whitsunday which was to make
the latter happy arrived, the laird paid a second visit to his estate. At
the kirk, on the Sunday, all eyes were fixed on the young laird. Captain
Graham was one of his tenants, and occupied a pew immediately behind the
square seat of the squire. But while all eyes were fixed upon Laird
Horslie, he turned his back upon the minister, and gazed and gazed again
upon the lovely countenance of Ann Graham. All the congregation observed
it. Ann blushed and hung her head; but the young squire, with the
privilege of a man of property, gazed on unabashed. What was observed by
all the rest of the congregation, was not unobserved by Peter. Many, with
a questionable expression in their eyes, turned them from the laird, and
fixed them upon him. Peter observed this also, and his soul was wroth. His
face glowed like a furnace; he stood up in his seats and his teeth were
clenched together. His fist was once or twice observed to be clenched
also; and he continued scowling on the laird, wishing in his heart for
ability to annihilate him with a glance.
Next day, the squire called
upon the old skipper, and he praised the beauty of Ann in her own
presence, and in the presence of her parents. But there was nothing
particular in this; for he called upon all his tenants, he chatted with
them, tasted their bottle, paid compliments to their daughters, and
declared that their sons did honour to
Many began to say, that the
laird was "a nice young gentleman"—that he had been "wickedly misca’ed ;"
and the factor "got the wyte o’ a’." His visits to Mr Graham’s cottage,
however, were continued day after day; and his attentions to Ann became
more and more marked. A keen sportsman himself, he was the implacable
enemy of poachers, and had strictly prohibited shooting on his estate;
but, to the old skipper, the privilege was granted of shooting when and
where he pleased. Instead, therefore, of seeing Peter Paterson and the old
seaman in the fields together, it was no uncommon thing to meet the
skipper and the squire. The affection of the former, indeed, had
wonderfully cooled towards his intended son-in-law. Peter saw and felt
this; and the visits of the squire were wormwood to his spirit. If they
did not make him jealous, they rendered him impatient, impetuous,
He was wandering alone upon
the shore, at the hour which Hogg calls, "between the gloaming’ and the
mirk," in one of these impatient, impetuous, and unhappy moods, when he
resolved not to live in a state of torture and anxiety until Whitsunday,
but to have the sacred knot tied at once.
Having so determined, Peter
turned towards Graham’s cottage. He had not proceeded far, when he
observed a figure gliding before him on the footpath, leading from the
village to the cottage. Darkness was gathering fast, but he at once
recognised the form before him to be that of his own Ann. She was not a
hundred yards before him, and he hastened forward to overtake her; but, as
the proverb has it, there is much between the cup and the lip. A part of
the footpath ran through a young plantation, and this plantation Ann
Graham was just entering, when observed by Peter. He also had entered the
wood, when his progress was arrested for a moment by the sudden sound of
voices. It was Ann’s voice, and it reached his ear in tones of anger and
reproach; and these were tones so new to him, as proceeding from one whom
he regarded as all gentleness and love, that he stood involuntarily still.
The words he could not distinguish; but, after halting for an instant, he
pushed softly but hastily forward, and heard the voice of the young laird
"A rose-bud in a fury, by
the goddesses!—Nay, frown not, fairest," continued he, throwing his arm
around her and adding—
"What pity that so delicate a form
Should be devoted to the rude embrace
Of some indecent clown!"
Peter heard this, and
muttered an oath or an ejaculation which we will not write.
"Sir," said Ann,
indignantly, and struggling as she spoke, "if you have the fortune of a
gentleman, have, at least, the decency of a man."
"Nay, sweetest; but you,
having the beauty of an angel, have the heart of a woman." And he
attempted to kiss her cheek.
"Laird Horslie!" shouted
Peter, as if an earthquake had burst at the heels of the squire—"hands
off! I say, hands off!"
Now, Peter did not exactly
suit the action to the word; for while he yet exclaimed, "hands off!" he
with both hands, clutched the laird by the collar, and hurling him across
the path, caused him to roll like a ball against the foot of a tree.
"Fellow!" exclaimed Horslie,
furiously, rising on his knee, and rubbing his sores—
Peter—"confound ye, sir, dinna fellow me, or there’ll be fellin’
in the way. You can keep yer farm, and be hanged to ye; and let me
tell ye, sir, if ye were ten thousand lairds, if ye dared to lay yer ill-faur’d
lips on a sweetheart o’ mine, I wad twist yer neck about like a turnip-shaw!—Come
awa, Annie, love," added he tenderly, "and be thankfu’ I cam in the way."
Before they entered the
house, he had obtained her consent to their immediate union; but the
acquiescence of the old skipper was still wanting; and when Peter made
known his wishes to him—
"Belay!" cried the old boy;
"not so fast, Master Peter; a craft such as my girl, is worth a longer
run, lad. Time enough to take her in tow, when you’ve a harbour to moor
her in, Master Peter. There may be other cutters upon the coast, too, that
will give you a race for her, and that have got what I call shot in
their lockers. So you can take in a reef, my lad; and, if you don’t like
it, why—helm about—that’s all."
"Captain Graham," said
Peter, proudly and earnestly, "I both understand and feel your remarks;
and but for Ann’s sake, I would resent them also. But, sir, you are a
faither—you are an affectionate one—dinna be a deluded one. By a
side-wind, ye hae flung my poverty in my teeth; but, sir, if I hae
poverty, and Laird Horslie riches, I hae loved yer dochter as a man—he
seeks to destroy her like a villain."
"Vast Peter, vast !" cried
the old man; "mind I am Ann’s father—tell me what you mean."
"I mean, sir, that ye hae
been hoodwinked," added the other—that ye hae been flung aff yer guard,
and led to the precipiece of the deep dark sea o’ destruction an disgrace;
that a villain has hovered round yer house, like a hawk round a
wood-pigeon’s nest, waiting an opportumty to destroy yer peace for ever!
Sir to use a phrase o’ yer ain, wad ye behold yer dochter driven a ruined
wreck upon the world’s bleak shore, the discarded property o’ the lord o’
the manor? If ye doubt me, as to the rascal’s intentions, ask Ann hersel."
"‘Sdeath, Peter, man!"
cried the old tar, "do ye say that the fellow has tried to make a marine
of me?—that a lubber has got the weatherguage of Bill Graham? Call in
Ann entered the room where
her father and Peter sat.
"Ann, love," said the old
man, "I know you are a true girl! you know Squire Horslie, and you know he
comes here for you; now, tell me at once, dear—I say, tell me what you
think of him?"
"I think," replied she,
bursting into tears—I know he is a villain!"
"You know it!" returned he,
"blow me, have I harboured a shark! What! the salt water in my girl’s
eyes, too! If I thought he had whispered a word in your ear but the thing
that was honourable—hang me! I would warm the puppy’s back with a
round dozen with my own hand."
"You have to thank Peter,"
said she, sobbing, "for rescuing me to-night from his unmanly rudeness."
"What! saved you from his
rudeness!—you didn’t tell me that, Peter; well, well, my lad, you have
saved an old sailor from being drifted on a rock. There’s my hand— forgive
me—get Ann’s, and God bless you!"
Within three weeks all was
in readiness for the wedding. At Foxlaw, old Betty was, as she said, up to
the elbows in preparation, and Robin was almost as happy as his son: for
Ann was loved by every one. It was Monday evening, and the wedding was to
take place next day. Peter was too much of a sportsman, not to have game
upon the table at his marriage feast. He took his guns and went among the
fields. He had traversed over the fifty acres of Foxlaw in vain, when, in
an adjoining field, the property of his rival, he perceived a full-grown
hare holding his circuitous gambols. It was a noble-looking animal. The
temptation was irresistable. He took aim; and the next momant bounded over
the low hedge. He was a dead shot; and he had taken up the prize, and was
holding it, surveying it before him, when Mr. Horslie and his gamekeeper
sprang upon him, and, ere he was aware, their hands were on his breast.
Angry words passed, and words rose to blows. Peter threw the hare over his
shoulders, and left the squire and his gamekeeper to console each other on
the ground. He returned home; but nothing said he of his second adventure
with Laird Horslie.
The wedding-day dawned;
and, though the village had no bells to ring, there were not wanting
demonstrations of rejoicing; and, as the marriage party passed through its
little street to the manse, children shouted, women waved ribbons, and
smiled, and every fowling-piece and pistol in the place sent forth a
joyful noise; yea, the village Vulcan himself, as they passed his smithy,
stood with a rod of red-hot iron in his hand, and having his stithies
ranged before him like a battery, and charged with powder, saluted them
with a rustic but hearty feu d’foie. There was not a countenance
but seemed to bless them. Peter was the very picture of manly joy—Ann of
modesty and love. They were within five yards of the manse, where the
minister waited to pronounce over them the charmed and holy words, when
Squire Horslie’s gamekeeper and two constables intercepted the party.
"You are our prisoner,"
said one of the latter, producing his warrant, and laying his hand upon
Peter’s cheek grew pale; he
stood silent and motionless, as if palsy had smitten his very soul. Ann
uttered a short, sudden scream of despair, and fell senseless at the feet
of the "best-man." Her cry of agony recalled the bridegroom to instant
consciousness; he started round—he raised her in his arms, he held her to
his bosom. "Ann!—my ain Ann!" he cried; "look up—oh, look up, dear! It is
me, Ann!—they canna, they daurna harm me."
Confusion and dismay took
possession of the whole party.
"What is the meaning o’
this, sirs?" said Robin Paterson, his voice half choked with agitation;
"what has my son done, that ye choose sic an untimeous hour to
bring a warrant against him?"
"He has done, old boy, what
will give him employment for seven years," said the gamekeeper,
insolently. "Constables, do your duty."
"Sirs," said Robin, as they
again attempted to lay hands upon his son, "I am sure he has been guilty
o’ nae crime—leave us noo, an’, whatever be his offence, I, his faither
will be answerable for his forthcoming to the last penny in my
"And I will be bail to the
same amount, master constables," said the old skipper "for, blow me, d’ye
see, if there an’t black work at the bottom o’ this, and somebody shall
hear about it, that’s all."
Consciousness had returned
to the fair bride. She threw her arms around Peter’s neck—"They shall not,
no, they shall not take you from me!" she exclaimed.
"No, no, dear," returned
he; "dinna put yersel’ about."
The minister had come out
of the manse, and offered to join the old men as security for Peter’s
appearance on the following day.
"To the devil with your
bail!—you are no justices master constables," replied the inexorable
gamekeeper— "seize him instantly."
"Slave!" cried Peter,
raising his hand and grasping the other by the throat.
"Help! help, in the king’s
name!" shouted the provincial executors of the law, each seizing him by
"Be quiet, Peter, my man,"
said his father, clapping his shoulder, and a tear stole down his cheek as
he spoke, "dinna mak bad worse."
"A rescue, by Harry!—a
rescue!" cried the old skipper.
"No, no," returned
Peter—"no rescue! if it cam to that, I wad need nae assistance. Quit my
arms, sirs, and I’ll accompany ye in peace. Ann, love—fareweel the noo,
an’ Heaven bless you, dearest!—but dinna greet, hinny—dinna greet!" And he
pressed his lips to hers. "Help her, faither— help her," added he; "see
her hame, and try to comfort her."
The old man placed his arm
tenderly round her waist— she clung closer to her bridegroom’s neck; and,
as they gently lifted up her hands, she uttered a heart-piercing, and, it
seemed, a heart-broken scream, that rang down the valley, like the wail of
desolation. Her head dropped upon her bosom. Peter hastily raised her hand
to his lips; then, turning to the myrmidons of the law, said sternly— "I
am ready, sirs; lead me where you will."
I might describe to you the
fears, the anguish, and the agony of Peter’s mother, as, from the door of
Foxlaw, she beheld the bridal party return to the village. "Bless me, are
they back already!—can onything hae happened the minister?" was her first
exclamation; but she saw the villagers collecting around them in silent
crowds; she beheld the women raising their hands, as if stricken with
dismay; the joy that had greeted them a few minutes before was dead, and
the very children seemed to follow in sorrow. "Oh, bairn!" said she to the
serving maid, who stood beside her, "saw ye e’er the like o’ you? Rin doun
an’ see what’s happened; for my knees are sinking under me." The next
moment she beheld her husband and Captain Graham supporting the unwedded
bride in their arms. They approached not to Foxlaw; but turned to the
direction of the Captain’s cottage. A dimness came over the mother’s
eyes—for a moment they sought her son, but found him not. "Gracious
Heaven!" she cried, wringing her hands, "what’s this come owre us!" She
rushed forward—the valley, the village, and the joyless bridal party,
floated round before her—her heart was sick with agony, and she fell with
her face upon the earth.
The next day found Peter in
Greenlaw jail. He had not only been detected in the act of poaching; but a
violent assault, as it was termed, against one of his Majesty’s Justices
of the Peace, was proved against him; and, before his father or his
friends could visit him, he was hurried to Leith, and placed on board a
frigate about to sail from the Roads. He was made of sterner stuff than to
sink beneath oppression; and, though his heart yearned for the mourning
bride from whose arms he had been torn, and he found it hard to brook the
imperious commands and even insolence of men "dressed in a little brief
authority;" yet, as the awkwardness of a landsman began to wear away, and
the tumult of his feelings to subside, his situation became less
disagreeable and, before twelve months had passed, Peter Paterson was a
favourite with every one on board.
At the time we speak of,
some French privateers had annoyed the fishing smacks employed in carrying
salmon from Scotland to London; and the frigate on board of which Peter
had been sent, was cruising to and fro in quest of them One beautiful
summer evening, when the blue sea was smooth as a mirror, the winds seemed
dead, and the very clouds slept motionless beneath the blue sky, the
frigate lay becalmed in a sort of bay within two miles of the shore. Well
was that shore known to Peter; he was familiar with the appearance of
every rock—with the form of every hill—with the situation of every
tree—with the name of every house and its inhabitants. It was the place of
his birth; and, before him, the setting sun shed its evening rays upon his
father’s house, and upon the habitation of her whom he regarded as his
wife. He leaned anxiously over the proud bulwarks of the vessel, gazing
till his imprisoned soul seemed ready to burst from his body, and mingle
with the objects it loved. The sun sank behind the hills—the big tears
swelled in his eyes—indistinctness gathered over the shore—he wrung his
hands in silence and in bitterness. He muttered in agony, the name of his
parents, and the name of her he loved. He felt himself a slave. He dashed
his hand against his forehead—"O Heaven!" he exclaimed aloud, "thy curse
upon mine enemy!"
"Paterson!" cried an
officer, who had observed him, and overheard his exclamation; "are you
mad? See him below," continued he, addressing another seaman; "the fellow
"I am not mad, your
honour," returned Peter, though his look and his late manner almost belied
his words; and, briefly telling his story, he begged permission to go on
shore. The frigate, however, was considered as his prison, and his place
of punishment; when sent on board, he had been described as "a dangerous
character"—his recent bitter prayer or imprecation went far in
confirmation of that description; and his earnest request was refused.
Darkness silently stretched
its dull curtain over earth and sea—still the wind slept as a cradled
child, and the evening star, like a gem on the bosom of night, threw its
pale light upon the land. Peter had again crept upon the deck; and while
the tears yet glistened in his eyes, he gazed eagerly towards the shore,
and on the star of hope and of love. It seemed like a lamp from Heaven
suspended over his father’s house--the home of his heart, and of his
childhood. He felt as though it at once invited him to the scene of his
young affections, and lighted the way. For the first time, the gathering
tears rolled down his cheeks. He bent his knees--he clasped his hands in
silent prayer— one desperate resolution had taken possession of his soul;
and the next moment he descended gently into the silent sea. He dived by
the side of the vessel; and, ascending at the distance of about twenty
yards, strained every nerve for the shore.
It was about day-dawn, when
Robin Paterson and his wife were aroused by the loud barking of their
farm-dog; but the sound suddenly ceased, as if the watch-dog were familiar
with the intruder; and a gentle tapping was heard at the window of the
room where they slept.
"Wha’s there?" inquired
"A friend—an old friend,"
was replied in a low and seemingly disguised voice.
But there was no disguising
the voice of a lost son to a mother’s ear.
"Robin! Robin!" she
exclaimed—"it is him !—Oh, it is him/—Peter !—my bairn!"
In an instant, the door
flew open, and Peter Paterson stood on his parent’s hearth, with their
arms around his neck, while their tears were mingled together.
After a brief space wasted
in hurried exclamations, inquiries, and tears of joy and surprise—"Come
hinny," said the anxious mother, "let me get you changed, for ye’re wet
through and through. Oh, come, my man, and we’ll hear a’ thing by and
by—or ye’ll get yer death o’ cauld, for ye’re droukit into the very skin.
But, preserve us, bairn ye hae neither a hat to yer head, nor a coat to
yer back! O Peter, hinny, what is’t—what’s the matter?—tell me what’s the
"O mother, do not ask me!—I
have but a few minutes to stop. Faither, ye can understand me—I maun go
back to the ship again; if I stay, they will be after me."
"O Peter!—Peter, man!"
exclaimed Robin, weeping as he spoke, and pressing his son’s hand between
his—"what’s this o’t!—yes, yes, yer faither understands ye! But is it no
possible to hide?"
"No, no, faither!" replied
he; "dinna think o’t."
"O bairn!" cried Betty,
"what is’t ye mean? Wad ye leave yer mother again? Oh! if ye kenned what
I’ve suffered for yer sake, ye wanna speak o’t."
"O mother!" exclaimed
Peter, dashing his hand before his face, "this is worse than death! But I
must!—I must go back, or they would tear me from you. Yet, before I do go,
I would see my poor Ann."
"Ye shall see her: see her
presently," cried Betty; "and baith her and yer mother will gang doun on
oor knees to ye, Peter, if ye’ll promise not to leave us."
"Haste ye, then, Betty,"
said Robin, anxiously; "rin awa owre to Mr. Graham’s as quick as ye can;
for, though ye no understand it, I see there’s nae chance for poor Peter
but to tak horse for it before the sun’s up."
Hastily the weeping mother
flew towards Mr. Graham’s. Robin, in spite of the remonstrances of his
son, went out to saddle a horse on which he might fly. The sun had not yet
risen when Peter beheld his mother, his betrothed bride, and her father,
hurrying towards Foxlaw. He rushed out to meet them: to press the object
of his love to his heart. They met: their arms were flung around each
A loud huzza burst from a
rising ground between them and the beach. The old skipper started round.
He beheld a boat’s crew of the frigate, with their pistols levelled
towards himself, his unhappy daughter, and her hapless bridegroom!
"O Ann, woman!" exclaimed
Peter, wildly, "this is terrible! it is mair than flesh and blood can
"Peter! O Peter!" cried the
wretched girl, clinging around him.
The party from the frigate
approached them. Even their hearts were touched.
"From my soul, I feel for
you, Paterson," said the lieutenant commanding them; "and I am sorry to
see these old people and that lovely girl in distress; but you know I must
do my duty, lad."
"O Sir! Sir!" cried his
mother, wringing her hands, and addressing the lieutenant, "if ye hae a
drap o’ compassion in yer heart, spare my puir bairn! O Sir! I implore ye,
as ye wad expect mercy here or hereafter, dinna tear him frae the door o’
the mither that bore him."
"Good woman," replied the
officer, "your son must go with us; but I shall do all that I can to
render his punishment as light as possible."
Ann uttered a shriek of
Betty, grasping the arm of the lieutenant—"O Sir, what do ye mean by
punishment? Surely, though your heart was harder than a nether millstane,
ye couldna be sae cruel as to hurt my bairn for comin’ to see his ain
"Sir," said Robin, "my son
never intended to rin awa frae your ship. He told me he was gaun to return
immediately: I assure ye o’ that. But, sir, if ye could only leave him,
and if siller can do onything in the case, ye shall hae the savings o’
thirty years, an’ a faither’s blessing into the bargain."
"Oh, ay, sir!" cried his
mother; "ye shall hae the last penny we hae i’ the world: ye shall line
the very stock of the farm, if ye’ll leave my bairn."
The officer shook his head.
The sailors attempted to pinion Peter’s arms.
"’Vast there, shipmates!
‘vast!" said Peter, sorrowfully, "there is no need for that; had I
intended to run for it, you would not have found me here. Ann, love"—he
added—his heart was too full for words—he groaned—he pressed his teeth
upon his lip—he wrung her hand. He grasped the hands of his parents and of
Mr Graham—he burst into tears, and in bitterness exclaimed, "Farewell!" I
will not describe the painful scene, nor paint the silent agony of the
father, the heart-rending lamentations of the bereaved mother, nor the
tears and anguish of the miserable maiden who refused to be comforted.
Peter was taken to the
boat, and conveyed again to the frigate. His officers sat in judgment upon
his offence, and Peter stood as a culprit before them. He begged to be
heard in his defence, and his prayer was granted.
"I know, your honours,"
said Peter, "that I have been guilty of a breach of discipline; but I deny
that I had any intention of running from the service. Who amongst you that
has a heart to feel, would not, under the same circumstances, have acted
as I did? Who that has been torn from a faither’s hearth, would not brave
danger, or death itself, again to take a faither by the hand, or to fling
his arms around a mother’s neck? Or who that has plighted his heart and
his troth to one that is dearer than life, would not risk life for her
sake? Gentlemen, it becomes not man to punish an act which Heaven has not
registered as a crime. You may flog, torture, and degrade me, I do not
supplicate for mercy, but will degradation prompt me to serve my king more
faithfully? I know you must do your duty, but I know also you will do it
as British officers, as men who have hearts to feel."
During this address, Peter
had laid aside his wonted provincial accent. There was an evident leaning
amongst the officers in his favour, and the punishment they awarded him
was a few days’ confinement.
It was during the second
war between Britain and the United States. The frigate was ordered to the
coast of Newfoundland. She had cruised upon the station about three
months; and, during that time, as the seamen said—"not a lubber of the
enemy had dared to shew his face—there was no life going at all;"
and they were becoming impatient for a friendly set-to with their brother
Jonathan. It was Peter’s watch at the mast-head. "A sail?—a Yankee!
shouted Peter. A sort of wild hurra burst from his comrades on the deck.
An officer hastily ascended the rigging to ascertain the fact. "All’s
right," he cried—"a sixty-gun ship, at least."
"Clear the deck, my boys,"
cried the commander; "get the guns in order—active—be steady, and down
Within ten minutes, all was
in readiness for action. "Then down on the deck, my lads," cried the
captain; "not a word amongst you—give them a British welcome."
The brave fellows silently
knelt by the guns, glowing with impatience for the command to be given to
open their fire upon the enemy. The American seemed nothing loath to meet
them half way. Like winged engines of death rushing to shower destruction
on each other, the proud vessels came within gunshot. The American opened
the first fire upon the frigate. Several shot had passed over her, and
some of the crew were already wounded. Still no word escaped from the lips
of the British commander. At length he spoke a word in the ear of the man
at the helm, and the next moment the frigate was brought across the bow of
the enemy. "Now, my lads," cried the captain, "now give them it." An
earthquake seemed to burst at his words--the American was raked fore and
aft, and the dead and dying, and limbs of the wounded strewed her deck.
The enemy quickly brought their vessel round—then followed the random gun,
and anon the heavy broadsides were poured into each other. For an hour the
action had continued, but victory or death seemed the determination of
both parties. Both ships were crippled and had become almost unmanageable,
and in each, equal courage and seamanship were displayed. It was drawing
towards nightfall, they became entangled, and the word "to board!" was
given by the commander of the frigate. Pete Paterson was the first man
who, cutlass in hand, sprang upon the deck of the American. He seemed to
possess a lion’s strength, and more than a lion’s ferocity. In a few
minutes four of the enemy had sunk beneath his weapon. "On, my
hearties!—follow Paterson!" cried an officer; "Peter’s a hero!" Fifty
Englishmen were engaged hand to hand with the crew of the American; and
for a time they gained ground; but they were opposed with a determination
equal to their own, and, overpowered by a superiority of numbers, they
were driven back and compelled to leap again into the frigate. At the
moment his comrades were repulsed, Peter was engaged with the first
lieutenant of the American— "Stop a minute!" shouted Peter, as he beheld
them driven back; "keep your ground till I finish this fellow!" Hi request
was made in vain, and he was left alone on the enemy’s deck; but Peter
could turn his back upon no man. "It lies between you and me now, friend,"
said he to his antagonist. He had shivered the sword of the lieutenant by
the hilt, when a Yankee seaman, armed with a crowbar felled Peter to the
Darkness came on and the
vessels separated. The Americans were flinging their dead into the
sea—they lifted the body of Peter. His hands moved—the supposed dead man
groaned. They again placed him on the deck. He at length looked round in
bewilderment. He raised himself on his side, "I say, neighbours," said he
to the group around him, "is this our ship or yours?" The
Americans made merry at Peter’s question. "Well," continued he, "if it be
yours, I can only tell you it was foul play that did it. It was a low,
cowardly action, to fell a man behind his back; but come face to face, and
twa at a time if ye like, and I’ll clear the decks o’ the whole ship’s
crew o’ you."
"You are a noble fellow,"
said the lieutenant whom he had encountered, "and if you will join our
service, I guess your merit shan’t be long without promotion."
"What!" cried Peter, "raise
my hand against, my ain country! Gude gracious, sir! I wad sooner eat it
as my next meal!"
In a few weeks the vessel
put into Boston for repairs and on her arrival, it was ascertained that
peace had been concluded between the two countries.. Peter found himself
once more at liberty; but with liberty he found himself in a strange land
without a sixpence in his pocket. This was no enviable situation to be
placed in, even in America, renowned as it is as the paradise of the
unfortunate; and he was standing, on the second morning after his being
put on shore, counting the picturesque islands which stud Boston harbour,
for his breakfast, poor fellow, when a person accosted him—"Well, my lad,
how is the new world usin you?" Peter started round—it was his old
adversary the lieutenant.
"A weel-filled pocket,
sir," returned Peter, "will mak either the new warld or the auld use you
weel; and without that, I reckon your usage in either the ane or the ither
wad be naething to mak a song about."
The lieutenant pulled out
his purse. "I am not rich Paterson," said he; "but, perhaps, I can assist
a brave man in need." Peter was prevailed upon to accept a few dollars. He
knew that to return to Berwickshire was again to throw himself into the
power of his persecutor, and he communed with himself what to do. He could
plough—he could manage a farm—he was master of all field-work; and, within
a week, he engaged himself as a farm-servant to a proprietor in the
neighbourhood of Charleston. He had small reason, however, to be in love
with his new employment. Peter was proud and high-minded (in the English,
not the American acceptation of the word), and he found his master an
imperious, avaricious, republican tyrant. The man’s conduct ill-accorded
with his professions of universal liberty. His wish seemed to be, to level
all down to his own standard, that he might the more easily trample on all
beneath him. His incessant cry, from the rising of the sun until its
setting, was, "Work! work!" and with an oath he again called upon his
servants to "work!" He treated them as beasts of burden. "Work! hang ye
work!" and a few oaths, seemed to be the principal words in the man’s
vocabulary. Peter had not been over-wrought in the frigate—he had been his
own master at Foxlaw—and, when doing his utmost, he hated to hear those
words everlastingly rung in his ear. But he had another cause for
abhorring his employment; his master had a number of slaves, on whom he
wreaked the full measure of his cruelty. There was one, an old man, in
particular, on whom he almost everyday gratified his savageness. Peter had
beheld the brutal treatment of the old negro till he could stand it no
longer; and one day, when he was vainly imploring the man who called
himself the owner of his flesh for mercy, Peter rushed forward, he seized
the savage by the breast, and exclaimed—"Confound ye sir, if I see ye
strike that poor auld black creature again, I’ll cleave ye to the chin."
The slave-owner trembled
with rage. "What!" said he, "it’s a fine thing, indeed, if we’ve walloped
the English for liberty, and, after all, a man an’t to have the liberty of
walloping his own nigger!"
He drew out his purse, and
flung Peter’s wages contemptuously on the ground. Peter, stooping, placed
the money in his pocket, and, turning towards Charleston, proceeded along
the bridge to Boston. He had seen enough of tilling another man’s fields
in America, and resolved to try his fortune in some other way, but was at
a loss how to begin. I have already told you how Peter’s mother praised
his delivery in his debate with the schoolmaster; and Peter himself
thought that he could deliver a passage from Shakespeare in a manner that
would make the fortune of any hero of the sock and buskin; and he was
passing along the Mall, counting the number of trees in every row, much in
the same manner, and for the same reason, as he had formerly counted the
islands in the harbour, when the thought struck him that the Americans
were fond of theatricals; and he resolved to try the stage. He called at
the lodgings of the manager in Franklin Place. He gave a specimen of his
abilities; and, at a salary of eighteen dollars a-week, Peter Paterson was
engaged as leader of the "heavy business" of the Boston corps
dramatique. The tidings would have killed his mother. Lear was chosen
as the part in which he was to make his first appearance. The curtain was
drawn up. "Peter, what would your mother say?" whispered his conscience,
as he looked in the glass, just as the bell rang and the prompter called
him; and what, indeed, would Betty Paterson have said to have seen her own
son Peter, with a red cloak, a painted face, a grey wig, and a white beard
falling on his breast! Lear—Peter—entered. He looked above, below, and
around him. The audience clapped their hands, shouted, and clapped their
hands again. It was to cheer the new performer. Peter thought they would
bring down the theatre. The lights dazzled his eyes. The gallery began to
swim—the pit moved—the boxes appeared to wave backward and forward. Peter
became pale through the very rouge that bedaubed his face, and sweat, cold
as icicles, rained down his temples. The shouting and the clapping of
hands was resumed—he felt a trembling about his limbs—he endeavoured to
look upon the audience—he could discern only a confused mass. The noise
"Attend—France—Burgundy—hem!—Gloster!" flattered out poor Peter. The
laughter became louder than the clapping of hands had been before. The
manager led Peter off the stage, paid him the half of his week’s salary,
and wished him good-by. It is unnecessary to tell you how Peter, after
this disappointment, laid out eight dollars in the purchase of a pack, and
how, as pedlar, he travelled for two years among the Indians and
back-settlers of Canada, and how he made money in his new calling. He had
written to his parents and to Ann Graham; but, in his unsettled way of
life, it is no wonder that he had not received an answer. He had written
again to say, that, in the course of four months, he would have to be in
New York, in the way of business—for Peter’s pride would not permit
him to acknowledge that he carried a pack—and if they addressed their
letters to him at the Post-office there, he would receive them. He had
been some weeks in New York, and called every day, with an anxious heart,
at the Post-office. But his time was not lost; he had obtained many rare
and valuable skins from the Indians, and, with his shop upon his back, he
was doing more business than the most fashionable store-keeper in the
Broadway. At length, a letter arrived. Peter hastily opened the seal,
which bore the impress of his mother’s thimble, and read:—"My dear bairn,—This
comes to inform ye that baith yer faither and me are weel—thanks to the
Giver o’ a’ good—and hoping to find ye the same. O Peter, hinny, could ye
only come hame; did you only ken what sleepless nights I spend on your
account, ye wad leave America as soon as ye get my letter. I wonder that
ye no ken that Ann, poor woman, an’ her father, an’ her mother, an’ the
family, a’ gaed to about America mair than a year and a half syne, and I’m
surprised ye haena seen them."
"Ann in America!" cried
Peter. He was unable to read the remainder of his mother’s letter. He
again flung his pack upon his shoulder, but not so much to barter and to
sell, as to seek his betrothed bride. He visited almost every city in the
States, and in the provinces of British America. He advertised for her in
more than fifty newspapers; but his search was fruitless—it was "Love’s
labour lost." Yet, during his search, the world prospered with Peter. His
pack had made him rich. He opened a store in New York. He became also a
shareholder in canals, and a proprietor in steam-boats; in short, he was
looked upon as one of the most prosperous men in the city. But his heart
yearned for his native land; and Peter Paterson, Esq., turned his property
into cash, and embarked for Liverpool.
Ten long years had passed
since the eyes of Betty Paterson had looked upon her son; and she was
busied, on a winter day, feeding her poultry in the barn-yard, when she
observed a post-chaise drive through the village and begin to ascend the
hill towards Foxlaw.
"Preserve us, Robin!" she
cried, as she bustled into the house, "there’s a coach comin’ here—what
can folk in a coach want wi’ the like o’ us? Haud awa out an’ see what
they want, till I fling on a clean mutch an’ an apron, an’ make mysel
"I watna wha it can be,"
said Robin, as he rose and went towards the door.
The chaise drew up—a tall
genteel-looking man alighted from it—at the first glance he seemed nearly
forty years of age, but he was much younger. As he approached, Robin
started back—his heart sprang to his throat—his tongue faltered.
he exclaimed. The stranger leaped forward, and fell upon the old man’s
Betty heard the word
Peter!—the clean cap fell from her hand, she uttered a scream of joy,
and rushed to the door, her grey hairs falling over her face; and the next
moment her arms encircled her son.
I need not tell you of the
thousand anxious questions of the fond mother, and how she wept as he
hinted at the misfortunes he had encountered, and smiled, and wept, and
grasped his hand again, as he dwelt upon his prosperity.
"Did I no aye say,"
exclaimed she, "that I would live to see my Peter a gentleman?"
"Yet, mother, " said Peter,
"riches cannot bring happiness—at least not to me while I can hear nothing
of poor Ann. Could no one tell to what part of America her father went?
for I have sought them everywhere."
"Oh, forgie me hinny,"
cried Betty, bitterly; "it was a mistake o’ yer mother’s a’thegither. I
understand, now, it wasna America, they gaed to; but it was Jamaica, or
some ca, and we hear they’re back again."
"Not America!" said Peter:
"and back again! then, where—where shall I find her?"
"When we wrote to you,
that, after leaving here, they had gaen to America," said Robin, "it was
understood they had gane there—at ony rate, they went abroad some-way—and
we never heard, till the other week, that they were back to this country,
and are now about Liverpool, where I’m very sorry to hear they are very
ill off; for the warld, they say, has gaen a’ wrang wi’ the auld man."
This was the only
information Peter could obtain. They were bitter tidings; but they brought
hope with them.
"Ye were saying that ye was
in Liverpool the other day," added his mother; "I wonder ye didna see some
Peter’s spirit was sad, yet
he almost smiled at the simplicity of his parent; and he resolved to set
out in quest of his betrothed on the following day.
Leaving Foxlaw, we shall
introduce the reader to Sparling Street, in Liverpool. Amongst the
miserable cellars where the poor are crowded together, and where they are
almost without light and without air, one near the foot of the street was
distinguished by its outward cleanliness; and in the window was a ticket
with the words—"A Girl’s School kept here, by A. GRAHAM,"
Over this humble cellar was a boarding-house, from which, ever and
anon, the loud laugh of jolly seamen rang boisterous as in their own
element. By a feeble fire in the comfortless cellar, sat an emaciated, and
apparently dying man; near him sat his wife, engaged in making such
articles of apparel as the slop-ealers sent to the West Indies, and near
the window was a pale but beautiful young woman, instructing a few
children in needle-work, and the rudiments of education. The children
being dismissed, she began to assist her mother; and, addressing her
"Come, cheer up, dear
father—do not give way to despondency—we shall see better tes. Come, smile
now, and will sing your favourite song."
"Heaven bless thee, my own
sweet child!" said the old man, while the tears trickled down his cheeks.
"Thou wilt sing to cheer me, wilt thou?—bless thee!—bless thee! It is
enough that, in my old age, I eat thy bread, my child!—sing not!—sing
not!—there is no music now for thy father’s heart."
"Oh, speak not—think not
thus," she cried, tenderly; "you make me sad, too."
"I would not make thee sad,
love," returned he, "but it is hard—it is very hard—that, after cruising
till I had made a fortune, as I may say, and after being anchored in
safety, to be tempted to make another voyage, where my all was wrecked—and
not only all wrecked, but my little ones too--thy brothers and thy
sisters, Ann—to see them struck down ane after another, and I hardly left
wherewith to bury them—it is hard to bear, child!—and, worse than all, to
be knocked up like a useless hulk, and see thee and thy mother toiling and
killing yourselves for me--it is more than a father’s heart can stand,
"Nay, repine not, father,"
said she: HE who tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb, will not permit
adversity to press on us more hardly than he gives us strength to endure
it. Though we suffer poverty, our exertions keep us above want."
The old woman turned aside
her head and wept.
"True, dear," added he,
"thy exertions keep us from charity; but those exertions my child will not
long be able to make--I see it—I feel it! And, oh, Ann, shall I see thee
and thy mother inmates of a workhouse—shall I hear men call thy father,
Bill Graham, the old pauper?"
The sweat broke upon the
old man’s brow from his excitement; his daughter strove to soothe him,
and, with an assumed playfulness, commenced singing Skinner’s beautiful
old man’s song, beginning:
"Oh, why should old age so
much wound us!"
Now, Peter Paterson had
been several days in Liverpool, anxiously inquiring for Captain Graham,
but without obtaining any information of him or of his daughter, or where
they dwelt. Again and again he had wandered along the docks; and he was
disconsolately passing up Sparling Street, when the loud revelry of the
seamen in the boarding-house attracted his attention. It reminded him of
old associations; he paused for a moment, and glanced upon the house, and,
as the pealing laughter ceased, a low, sweet voice, pouring forth a simple
Scottish air, reached his ear. Peter now stood still. He listened—"That
voice!" he exclaimed audibly, and he shook as he spoke. He looked down
towards the cellar; the ticket in the window caught his eye. He read the
words, "A Girl’s School kept here, by A. GRAHAM." "I have found
her!" he cried, clasping his hands together. He rushed down the few steps,
he stood in the midst of them—"I have found her," he repeated, as he
entered. His voice fell like a sunbeam on the cheerless heart of the fair
vocalist. "Peter!—my own"—she exclaimed, starting to her feet. She could
not utter more; she would have fallen to the ground, but Peter caught her
in his arms.
I need not describe the
scene that followed: that night they left the hovel which had served as a
grave for their misfortunes. Within a week they had arrived at Foxlaw, and
within a month old and young in the village danced at a joyful wedding. I
may only add, that, a few weeks after his marriage, Peter read in the
papers an advertisement, headed: "UPSET PRICE GREATLY REDUCED—Desirable
Property in the neighbourhood of Foxlaw," &c. It was the very farm
now offered for sale of which Peter was to have become a tenant some
twelve years before, and was the remnant of the estates of the hopeful
Laird Horslie; and Peter became the purchaser. The old shipper regained
his wonted health and cheerfulness; and Betty Paterson lived to tell her
grandchildren, "she aye said their faither wad be a gentleman, and her
words cam true." Even the old schoolmaster, who had styled him, "Ne’er-do-weel
Peter," said he "had aye predicted o’ Mr. Paterson, even when a callant,
that he would turn out an extraordinary man."