Peggy was allowed to be the
bonniest lass in all the parish; but she was as prudent and sedate as she
was bonny, and everybody wondered that she keepit company wi’ William
Archbold sae lang as she did, after he had gien himsel’ up to a habit o’
dissipation. Though she, perhaps, thocht as I did, that it was mere
thochtlessness in the young man, that he was jist drawn awa by his friend
Thomas Elliot, and that, if he were married, he would reform. Luckie
Riddle’s sign, however, was a black sicht to him, and I doot it has been a
heart sore to puir Peggy. The difference that the subject gave rise to
between them, was perhaps unlucky for the happiness o’ baith parties. In
the vexation o’ the moment, she uttered words o’ harshness which her heart
did not dictate, and, in leaving as he did, he acted rashly.
When we heard, however, of
William Archbold’s having left the town, and the cause o’ his leaving,
(that it arose from Peggy having spoken to him as if disgusted at his
conduct),we laughed and said he would soon come back again. She thought
the same thing; but weeks and months succeeded each other, and now
five-and-twenty years have passed, and the lad has been no more heard of.
How deeply Peggy grieved for her conduct, and mourned his absence, was
visible in her countenance.
About ten years after her
sister’s death, her parents, who had both become very frail, were thrown
out of their bit farm after several very unfortunate seasons in it, and
they were left entirely dependent upon her exertions for their support.
They were reduced to very great straits, and many a time it was a wonder
to me how they lived; but late and early did she toil for their
maintenance; and, poor hizzy, the sorrow that fell upon her face, for the
loss of William Archbold, never left it.
At that time a very decent
man, who had taken a small farm in the neighbourhood, began to pay
attention to her, and often called at her faither’s house. She heard his
request that she would marry him, wi’ a sigh—for she hadna forgotten
Blithe Willie. But her faither and mither looked at her, wi’ the tears in
their een, and they besought her night and day, that they might see
her settled and provided for. She at length yielded to their
solicitations, and gied him her hand; but she was candid enough to confess
to him, that her affection couldna accompany it, though her respect and
So far as the world could
judge, they seemed to live happily together, and Peggy made an exemplary
wife; but there was always like a quiet settled melancholy on her
countenance. Their farm was too dear taken, and about a year after they
were married, it became the property of Johnny Grippy. Ye have already
heard what sort of man he was, reaping where he had not sown. He exacted
his rent to the last farthing, or without ceremony paid himself doubly
from the stock upon the farm.
Peggy’s husband became
unable, though he struggled early and late, to make up his rent, and
having fought until his strength was exhausted, and his health and heart
broken, he sank down upon his bed, a dying man; and Johnny, causing the
sheriff’s officer to seize all that was upon the farm, made them seize
also the very bed upon which the dying man lay. He, in fact, died in their
hands, and Peggy was turned out upon the world, a friendless widow, with
two helpless infants at her knee; and a sore, sore fight she has had, to
get the bite and the sup for them, poor things, from that day to this."
"But," replied the stranger
with emotion, "there is one left who will provide for her and her
"Who may that be?" inquired
answered the other.
"Preserve us!" said the old man in
surprise; "I daresay I have been blind not to have recognised ye before—ye
"I am," replied the other;
"Blithe Willie, as you once termed me. Peggy’s cutting and just rebuke
roused my pride and filled me with self abasement at the same instant. In
a state of mind bordering on madness I left the village, where I
considered my character to be blasted for ever. I went to London, and
there engaged to go out to India. I was there fortunate in business, and
in a few years became rich. I there some years ago, discovered Alexander
Elliot (the son of my old companion), whose regiment had gone to the East
and not to the West Indies as you supposed. I purchased his discharge, and
employed him as a clerk. He requested permission to visit this country,
and it was granted; but I knew not the deadly nature of his errand. It was
during that visit that he so fatally avenged the ruin of poor Esther. He
is again in India, and prospering. But you say that Peggy has been
married, that she is a widow—a widow."
"Yes, a widow, sir,"
answered the patriarch; "and if ye be single, I think ye canna do better
than make her a wife."
"No! no!" said WiUiam,
drawing his hand across his eyes, "I cannot, I will not glean where
another has reaped. But here is a bank order for five hundred
pounds, let it be conveyed to her, but let her never know the hand from
whence it came."
"Hoots! nonsense, Maister
William," said the old man, "see her again for auld langsyne at ony rate,
and gie her it yersel’"
What course William
Archbold would have adopted, I cannot tell, but at that moment Peggy
passed down the street, and spoke to the old man as she passed. William
started to his feet, he stretched out his hand, he exclaimed—"Peggy!"
She was speechless—tears
gushed into her eyes. Old love, it is said, soon kindles again. Be this as
it may, within six weeks Peggy left the village in a coach as the wife of
William Archbold, and her children accompanied her.