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Good Words 1860
Lady Somerville's Maidens


{Continued from page 415.)

"And what does Adie say? Adie will have forgotten me and George Heriot's, amid the stour of bloody war, lang syne."

"Not so; Adie does not forget; he leaves that to those more thoughtful and brodent on their own designs. I'm feared I've sometimes forgotten Adie, but Adie has not forgotten me."

"It is easy for a soldier to fleech, mistress."

"Adie does not fleech. I can prove it, for I have the paper upon me—that and the letter he writ years syne, when I was still a lass with Mrs. Jonet, and an epistle that my Lady Ormeslaw deigned to indite to me from London itsel', and it contained gude wishes from all the household, even from the laird and Master George—I beg your pardon, Master Mark, if I was bragging, but I am a little proud of my lady's letter—these are all the letters I ever received. Poor Adie confesses, 'I cannot say yet that I've won George Heriot credit, Euphame, as I promised. I fear I've slipped much of the wise master's counsel and a gude lass's words—a fault I hoped never to commit again; but the wise masters, and you, Euphame, and mysel', could not read all that was written in my heart, and all that would lie in my path ; but see, Euphame, woman, if I've erred—and I have erred with or without my neighbours, whiles grievously, grievously, poor Euphame—still I can say I will not do it again,— no, I will not do it again.' "

" Till the time comes, madam."

"Fie for shame!" cried Euphame, highly, and read on:—"'I've taken a wife, Euphame. You might not like her, but I liked her, and she liked me, and we like ilk other yet, and we'll do the best we can for ilk other; and I'm brave in believing, Euphame, that the swords were forged for God's service, as the books were written; and if I'm spared, I'll maybe some day get nearer my duty, and do credit to gude auld George Heriot, and send you the guilders.'"

"Poor Adie; poor simple Adie," cried Mark Crichton briskly, and even fondly, with the ineffable softening which some strong, rugged natures experience to weak, kindly ones, single-hearted and in trouble.

"I chase swords enow, if I do not forge them," subjoined Mark, after a pause. "Master Paul declares there has not been so great a push in working basket-bandies and polishing scabbards, since he took refuge in this country."

"That is strange," remarked Euphame; "for Adie writes further, that there is a rumour of the wars being ended, since the great French king, who wrought them for his ambition, is lying stiff and still in his gold-mounted coffin—if kings submit to be enclosed in coffins, like the rest of mankind, it might be the last assertion of their might and pride and will to He free in the royal mantle, which they wore with their sceptre and their crown."

"What might yon proceeding mean?" inquired Mark, when a gentleman, mounted on a fleet horse, galloped past them within the moment, and, after scanning them narrowly, as if satisfied that they were an ordinary company of city folks abroad for their diversion, or despising danger from such a quarter supposing his movements excited suspicions of secrecy and peril, alighted at no more than a stone's throw from this pair, led his horse by the bridle to a little heap of stones, stooped down, rapidly displaced them, plainly withdrew a paper packet, stored it into one of the deep pockets of his coat, demolished the cairn, remounted his horse, clapped spurs into its sides, and was out of sight ere they could gather breath to interchange another word. [History of the Rebellion.]

"He has come to reclaim a hidden treasure,' suggested Euphame.

"They are not wont to be dropped lightly on moors, and there maun be hundreds of them, for they do say most of the feal dykes and mosses in Scotland are thus visited this summer by them who ken their recesses, and use them too for their own purposes. This one will be needed no more, I guess."

"Are they the clippers and coiners that you and Master Paul are able to detect?"

"No, they dare not face broad daylight, they burrow for ever in the dark, and they do not for ordinary wear conspicuous feathers in their cocked hats, or are mounted on mettle beasts, with silver plates on their bridles, when they are about their dishonest work—though they have reaped big fortunes in the past ere King William's statute checked them."

Mark said no more. Euphame's speech was not like the usual tattle of the womankind he had known; but just because she would ponder his words, and lay them to heart, he was not disposed to tell a girl distinctly the storm which every discerning eye descried hanging over Scotland.

"I'm in affright about Adie's wife," continued Euphame, recurring to their former conversation. ''You may take tent he does not venture to do more than advert to her ; and he seems to consider that she would not be sure of the regard of me, his nearest kinswoman. What if she should wreck Adie's stout resolve?"

"Why should she," demanded Mark, with unwonted charity, "if she pleases him?"

"Men are poor judges of women," explained Euphame.

"I'm not inclined to grant that," objected Mark, glancing sharply at the other women; "but you may be right," he added, immediately darkening all over again. ''Men may command but short time to sound their extreme madness. I can tell you, Mistress Euphame, it is a dreary business to ettle at it for a lifetime."

Euphame Napier was not offended. She was well acquainted with Mark Crichton's peculiar temper and professed creed; but she was silenced at the same time, while she quivered to tell Mark openly, that he wanted a constant, strong, subtle sympathy, and a great faith, to twist together ropes of flax thin as hairs. Euphame was quite aware of the deficiency in his case, though she neglected the desideratum in her own.

"So you've quarrelled with Mark," cries Katie. ''You grave folk are aye quarrelling about your duty, I suppose. Master Ludovic and me—we have not quarrelled."

"Na, na, bonnie Katie."

"He has only been calling me bonnie, as you hear, and weaving for me wreaths of yellow segs and knots of blue forget-me-not, and we have not quarrelled."

But before Katie reached home, after Master Ludovic had dropped away to his end of the town, she began to complain that she was half crazy with "a sore head," and "a stitch in her side," and ''blistered feet;" and indeed now that the excitement was withdrawn, the child was prostrated; and as Mrs. Crichton supported thankless, fretful Mrs. Hughes, and Mysie, the selfish, inconsiderate daughters of Cauldacres, and Madge Haldane and her brother were fain to forswear their huff and make up for lost time, by addressing a few assiduous attentions which they had yet to spare for the haughty, sulky ladies of quality,—Mark had to lend Katie his ungracious but firm arm, and trudge along, gathering her flimsily trimmed "tail" out of the dust (Mark could have fallen into the custom of dubbing that thing a "trollop" with all his heart), and Euphame had to relieve the little lady of her fan, her nosegays, her scent-bottle, her snuff-box, else, after all, she had scarcely sufficient spirit abiding in her to have crept on to her covert in the High Street.

IV.

"If you women folk have any humanity, you'll quit your dogs, birds, and looking-glasses, and go and see after Madam Romieu, for it is my belief Master Paul will find her dead of starvation or cold in this hospitable town some day when he looks up from his sextant."

"Why can she not take care of herself?" And ''she'll be in for the pox, Mark, keep out of her way, I charge you;" and ''I cannot look after a sick body, it makes me sick myself to see them; I've no turn for sick folk," cries Kate, as she practised before a cracked mirror the curtsey and the recovery, "the genteel trip and the agreeable jet," to be per formed, as she proclaimed flippantly, ''maybe when she should be lady of the palace of Wintoun, the next thing to being queen at St. James's,"—a brewer's daughter had been queen in prospective at St. James's.

But Euphame covered up her embroidery, looking a little discontentedly at its unfinished scene, which was to have been completed to-day—and Euphame always burned to end her work, but she must defer the satisfaction and the reward, for it was certainly laid upon her to go and look after this forlorn Madam Romieu; if she was desolate, if she was in danger, if it was somebody's duty to put herself about, expose herself to trouble, responsibility, misconception in the stranger's behalf, of course the office belonged to Euphame Napier— the more that Euphame had been disposed to undervalue the refugee's wife, the more that her cheeks had burned passionately at Katie's light laughter and mockery. "You'll find Mark in the Bow as well. Mark's almost established in the Bow. Eh! Euphame, are you really making up to our Mark, and causing the fellow to look sweet on you? Mark's a skilled workman for as crabbed as he is, but he is only a workman; tell me, lass, whether am I to wish you or Mark joy of the conquest?" If this idle speech were to deter Euphame Napier from duty, she might find a lion in her path any day of the year. Euphame was a hundred-fold more valiant and faithful. She put up a little packet of her clothes. "I'll maybe have to bide with Madam, since she has no friends, but I'll send word how she keeps, with Mark," she said to Mrs. Crichton.

"But your orders, Euphame,—your passimenting coming in to-morrow,—Lady Windlestraw to call; you that are wont to be so punctual, I cannot understand what makes you flee off in this unaccountable fashion; you've had no trock with Madam Romieu that I've heard tell of," remonstrated Mrs. Crichton.

"You maun say I was called away; that is the truth; you can tell where, if you like, Mrs. Crichton."

"But I doubt if they'll be pleased, only you've never offended them before; stay, bairn, I've some of the old plague water in the house, carry that against infection."

"I'm not frighted, Mrs. Crichton; I do not think there is any use; Madam Romieu has been ailing ever since I came to the town."

"Then she'll be the worse to mend. Saw you ever the like of that?" protested Mrs. Crichton, when she was left alone, ''she refused to take a dish of tea with Lady Cauldacres, who wanted to learn the last stitch for the breasts of shirts, where they tack on the ruffles, that she might pursue her embroidery, and my lady is affronted at me, though I blinded myself showing her my plan, and I've never tried it, for Mark, poor chield, luckily he does not care for sewed work, and she would not hear of sparing an hour to attend the dancing academy, though it is under an express license; but she will run at the first notice to nurse the wife of the foreign clockmaker, who has no acquaintance in the town, and no interest in her power, and is so niggardly, that she will never think of recompensing her; it is past belief."

If Mrs. Crichton had lived in later days, she would have relieved herself by settling it in her own mind that Euphame was an enthusiast, and so she was, like Captain Coram, who spent his fortune in instituting the Foundling Hospital, and whom Hogarth painted before he drew the Marriage à la Mode, and the Two Apprentices; romance, enthusiasm, chivalry, are not such bugbears as cautious folk have considered them.

The Romieus were French Protestants escaped from the bloody wilds of the Cevennes, and Ro-mieu, who had inherited originally a strong bent to science and art, had picked up enough of mechanical dexterity and power to render him the first watchmaker resident in Edinburgh, and the most enterprising goldsmith of the period within the bounds of Scotland. Other Frenchmen had at various times settled in the city, besides the soldiers who arrived in the train of the early sovereigns and their spouses of Bourbon descent, and one fantastic architect who had left a dying request to be buried in one of the lanes of the old town, which bore his name. These strangers had all to bear, more or less, the prejudices of rude, ignorant people, against foreigners, odd in their language, and their few imported habits. "With the Romieu family, the circumstance of their being suffering Protestants had worked strongly in their favour here, as in every other northern capital. The Scotch General Assembly had not yet done voting its mingled sympathy with the last fruit of the Albigenses, and indignation at the cruelty of their enemies; a persecution which resembled, even in aggravated colours, the last intercourse of the Church of Scotland with the Stuarts and their chosen councillors. Still, the sympathy and the indignation soon died out in London itself; the subscription for the crowd of haggard, scared, or frenzied men and women who were founding the colony of Spitalfields was soon closed; the Government and the country forgot the exiles to whom they had given shelter, lost sight of how they had been robbed and wounded on their weary way for a common creed and common rights, and only remembered them, and that sometimes not very cordially, as aliens, intruders, isolated groups, families, and individuals in the municipalities, which had their own quarrels to arrange, their own hopes and fears into which to plunge, to the exclusion of others' despair. Therefore the Romieus, though they had been a number of years dwellers on the soil, and had learned to express their wants in its tongue, and to accommodate themselves to its ways, formed a household apart among the burghers of Edinburgh, and it might seem that they had been unfortunate in the person of their apprentice—the only individual incorporated with them—saturnine Mark Crichton.

Euphame had seen Madam Romieu when she came very rarely to the Crichtons, and had imbibed a little half-unconscious scorn for her, though she honoured her sect. Yet poor Madam's faults were pardonable. She wore a cherry-coloured gown and petticoat, and displayed a bare grizzled head when it was not done up with ribbons. Think of a martyr in a cherry-coloured gown and petticoat! —and forgive Euphame; though these particular Cevennoises being neither of the melancholy, mourning band observed near London by that indefatigable Mr. Spectator, nor of the excited, raving rebels into which a great king's malice, and their own weakness, drove an industrious, honest, pious race of peasantry, Madam only dressed according to national practice and individual inclination. Madam was possessed of a transparent simplicity, and had a helpless longing for intercourse with new gossips, and was prone to tell her own graphic, pathetic story, freely; she termed Master Paul— her gudeman, that reverent character in the Scotch girl's eyes—her son, or her little son; and she had once volunteered to recite and translate for Euphame's benefit, a foolish fable of a sheep that spoke, a cabbage that ran away, and a fir-tree that sat in judgment on the rest of the party. Euphame was naturally large-minded as well as large-hearted, but her education was what Lady Mary called the "worst in the world, that of Clarissa Harlowe's," and with women grave, and a little cold-mannered like Euphame, there is the same antipathy to babbling extravagance and incongruity that is to be found in the corresponding order of men.

(To he continued.)


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