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Good Words 1860
Lady Somerville's Maidens


(Continued from page 476)

Those were pleasant days when Madam Romieu was in a measure recovered, but Euphame Napier still made one in the clockmaker's household. They were strangers and not rich, they occupied a few close rooms in a noisy street of the old town of Edinburgh, in the summer season. They had no attendant, no show, no state, and very simple indulgences; but they had their enjoyments, and one of them not to be had in the exchange of green meadows, and babbling brooks, and forest trees, was this street, this curious thronged street, with its giddy gables; its masses of building; its unequal chimney-stalks, and stairs and turrets, and hanging storeys; its various and suggestive groups; under the glory of a pearly dawn, ere the smoke, dust, and noise of common day filled it, when the fragrance of flowers from distant pleasances searched even into its stale and noisome nooks—under the brooding heat of noon—beneath the soft rosy stain of sunset, lingering like the last blush of innocence. But the chief heart's-ease within the walls was within the godly, elevated, loving minds and hearts of the heads of the family. "True happiness is of a retired nature," writes Addison, "and an enemy of pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from an enjoyment of one's-self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions." The highest happiness extends beyond self, but Addison will write with a reservation; he adds, "False happiness loves to be in a crowd to draw the eyes of the world upon her;" proceeds to contrast the true by the examples of the virtuous Aurelia, spending her time usefully with her husband in retirement, and the meretricious Faustina, calling every woman of a prudent, modest, and retired life, a poor-spirited and unpolished creature, to whom, in her own person, ''the missing of an opera the first night would be more afflicting than the death of a child."

"We ponder again and again, are there such broad contrasts still? Does there yet linger a genus " fine gentleman," after the model of Dorimant and young Squire Thornhill, who fancy they show wit by a brutal address to the successor of the orange woman, or by the trifling fact of stigmatizing the next unoffending country girl by a modern version of the ''ugly toad?" Well, the old Spectator's strictures were to the life in Euphame's day, as were Hogarth's covert likenesses on his broad thumb-nail, and so were some of the reasons which he gave for the happiness of Aurelia and her friend and husband: ''This family is under so regular an economy in its hours of devotion and repast, employment and diversion, that it looks like a little commonwealth within itself." The order following the disorder, the tranquillity in place of the tumult, the contentment superseding the perpetual whirl and strain; if you have ever experienced the two in quick succession, kind reader, you will say this is the tired, tricked out, masked, fevered, foetid atmosphere of worldliness, while that is the cool, honest, unsophisticated, blessed air of Heaven. Then the French fashions, not the grotesqueness, but the grace which had originally been distasteful also, to Euphame's extreme sincerity, seen now near at hand, on the pure, serene face of the household, became as so many pretty dimples. The compliments which Master Paul paid his wife, the hand he kissed, the nosegay he presented, the musical bells he would sound in his alabaster clock to awaken Madam—as Romilly aroused his daughter by the mellow notes of his flute,—the tender grace and gallantry, which even in his art-mania he developed like an ever-courteous Frenchman; they were not grand, but they were winning for a change. Mark Crichton was no more polished than a rude rock, and Euphame little better than a round pastoral hill, but the Romieus represented the transformation which the sentimental lady effected in the neighbourhood of her country seat. "The rocks about her are shaped into artificial grottoes, covered with woodbines and jessamines. The woods are cut into shady walks, twisted into bowers, and filled with cages of turtles. The springs are made to run among pebbles, and by that means taught to murmur very agreeably. They are likewise collected into a beautiful lake, that is inhabited by a couple of swans, and empties itself by a little rivulet which runs through a green meadow, and is known in the family by the name of 'the purling stream.'" And Euphame was surprised at the complacency with which she was learning to regard these picturesque forms as second nature with the Arcadian French spirits.

However, it was the real simplicity of their joys under their ceremonious guise which fascinated Euphame. Ah, these simple joys! How we all slight them, and what fools we are for our restless ambition. Neither the bland private gentleman, Mr. Spectator, nor the crooked slave Ćsop, but the wise king, bade the young man draw water out of his own cistern, and enjoined him to rejoice in the wife of his youth. Silk or drugget, gold plate like his Grace's, or delf like Hodge's, a fine lady or a buxom lass, what do they matter? Not a grain of sand.

How cheerful and contented they were in the Bow over the meals which Mrs. Crichton viewed with such pity and contempt,—the bouilli, the salad, the fragrant coffee finely concocted, the home-made bread, the thick preserves, the fromage still of goats' milk. Mark and Euphame's healthful tastes did not reject the dishes, but relished them with zest. How social they were in the clockmaker's when the dusk descended, and put an end to the day's labours, and Master Paul whiled away the twilight by relating, with fire, vivid stories of the old days, when Protestantism was in the thick of the battle in France, but yet bore herself with a high head, when the great houses of Rohan and Sully were still in her numbers, when Henri-Quatre was her heart, and faithful Rochelle her watch-tower. How blithe they were when Mark Crichton fed Madam's cageful of young birds, which he had rescued from an apprehended nest, carried with its contents into the city by a juvenile Nero to amuse his leisure. How Mark laughed his short shy laugh when the little hairy nestlings sat confidingly on his strong finger, and gaped oddly in his dark face. How Euphame held the crumbs of flesh and wet meal, and regulated the supply, and was so anxious lest the small sickly bird should be found dead at the next feeding time, and never dreamt of comparing their charge with any part of the menagerie in the High Street. How readily she helped Mark to drape the cage with green, and praised him when he arrived with fresh twigs in those sunny summer mornings; how she took the larger boughs and fastened them on the bare walls, and about the French stove and Madam's wheel, to Madam's great enchantment, when she came in rubbing her eyes, and crying fondly of the dark green pine forests, the rushing waters, the fleet goats, the untamed hawks—specks in the sky of her Cevennes. And how Euphame sat and span among the boughs, and sang the doleful ditties of Ormeslaw, Madam now piteously begging her to stop, now urging her to continue, dropping many a tear ere the close, but professing herself a great deal better for the luxury.

Euphame had once thought of Mark Crichton when she sang the line,

"I asked grace at a graceless face;"

but now she rather compared him, in his relation to the High Street, to the dauntless betrayed Cock of the Border hastening to entertain his king, and rewarded for his open castle gate and roasted oxen —by the priest and the gallows-tree.

These cheap pleasures were worth a thousand of the mad masquerades which silly Katie sighed to see in Edinburgh, the dancing academies which she attended sedulously, in order to preserve her genteel swimming carriage, and to acquire the last romping "Hunt the Squirrel" and "Moll Pately;" and they were worth scores of loudly-talked-of junketings to Mutrie or the Borough Moor. Euphame grew very happy in the Bow, and not least so on the Sabbath days, when the Romieus, according to a Huguenot custom, spoke their French, and she would have been a barrier on the dear delight oŁ their weekly return to their native tongue, or must have sat twelve hours mutely listening to the liquid foreign accents, had not Mark compassionated her, and come to the clockmaker's as on work days, and walked with her to the Tron or St. Giles's, carrying her Bible, to which he proposed to affix silver clasps like Madam Romieu's, and done his best to converse with her afterwards on the sermon, or the chapter, or the early lessons of George Heriot's lads or Lady Somerville's maidens.

All at once it came with a shock upon Euphame that she was allowing herself to be engrossed with these new friends, that she was in danger of forgetting her tasks, her obligations, her diamond rose, her hospital. What! Lady Somerville's gift and these sisters of the old mother in the Trinity, the halt, the blind, the deaf,—she who was sick of the palsy, she who had been "bound with an infirmity these many years,"—how could she lose sight of them, how could she approach so near forgetting them!

Euphame fled precipitately from her warm, bright halting-place; she would tarry no longer on affectionate entreaty. Madam had no more need of her; it was time she were adoing again. She resisted the impetuous protest of Master Paul, and Mark's muttered remonstrances (Madam only looked at her with keen, loving glances). She returned with a stifled sigh to the racket and distempered sensuousness and show of the lodging-house, taking with her, as a memorial, the cherry-coloured petticoat and open French print gown, which Madam had quilted and made for her as an indulgence to her feeble fingers ; and she persisted in wearing them, in spite of Katie's loud raillery sitting in them over her frame, and her yards of tatting and knotting,—a paler and more downcast girl, who had been taught a little nervous twitching of the placid lips since she came up from Ormeslaw. It was a proof how much Master Mark respected brown, lank, gesticulating Madam Romieu, that he had a fondness for that cherry-coloured skirt and spotted sea-green calicot, since his eyes sought it eagerly, and dwelt on it stubbornly every time he entered his mother's house. And, in consideration of what he saw there, he now loitered longer in the buzz and clatter and empty feasting and finery so offensive to him, than in the deep, soft little nest of the Romieus, where he was always hailed with acclamation, and where he was doubly in request after Euphame Napier had let them know her nobleness and her loveableness, and then quitted them, and would not revisit them save with averted eyes, ears, and heart, very sparingly, very hurriedly, with ill-concealed reluctance and with secret pain.

PART IV.

I.

The summer was ended, and a perturbed autumn was hanging over Scotland, and threatening the good town of Edinburgh, smiting its timorous citizens with panic, and stimulating its brave men to defend to the last their Protestant government and freedom of conscience, long struggled for and dearly bought. The signs of insurrection were ominous and impending. There were unlawful gatherings in Perthshire, unaccounted - for visitors, distinguished strangers, and the chiefs did not exercise the feint of a great funeral, deferred for a fortnight, to summon all friends and servants of the exiled Stuarts to a great council of war.

Edinburgh was seldom in a worse state of defence. -The military was drawn off to repel an expected invasion of England; the commander-in-chief was posted at Stirling, with strict orders to remain in check of the Highland passes. If the bold scheme of surprising the Castle on the night of the 9th of September had been carried out with success, stores and money, those sinews of active service, would have been poured into the hands of the enemy. As it was, it gave little security, that my lords Hume, Wigton, and Kinnoul were seized and thrown into the Castle. The farther protection of the city seems to have been intrusted chiefly to the magistrates; and one can fancy how anxiously these good citizens and true, debated on their capability of resistance, armed and marshalled the trades' bands, enlisted in their warlike numbers the very ministers of the city—no mean allies, from the days of Odo of Bayeux and Robert Bruce's Abbot downwards; looked to what fortifications the gates presented; ranged, and cleared, and primed the old cannon, all in the month between the baulked stratagem and the landing of old Borlum—hardy, zealous Brigadier Mackintosh of Bor-lum, with his Highland brigade, and his taunting march to the very port of the city.

One can understand how the hearths of Edinburgh rung with the danger; how the young men were fiery, dogged, and dangerous,—drilling at every spare moment, and parading their weapons, better supplied than the north of England rebels, to whom their officer was compelled to give the grotesque command, "Those who have swords, draw them;" and how the women gossiped shrilly, and embroidered standards and sword-belts, and manufactured lints, and were very daring and enduring in anticipation, and when the thunder-cloud was about to burst, shrank back with pale cheeks and chattering teeth; but not so Euphame Napier.

One can understand that Allan Ramsay had given up his efforts at tea-gardens, and the clergymen had intermitted their Thursday diets of examination; and still there was no want of subjects of interest among all classes of the community. A strange species of exhilaration had laid hold of the population, and only a few of the earnest and thoughtful inhabitants studied its character, regarded it with reluctance, and would consider the seriousness of their position.

Euphame Napier sat at the little window in the High Street, overlooking the additional hurry of the steep street, and the new tone imparted to it by the constant appearance of arms offensive and defensive, the soldierly air and grouping of the passengers. Even Euphame would stay her thread when the company of goldsmiths, with their jewels in the centre, swept along. Paul Romieu was there,—Master Paul, the Huguenot, whose Louis the Terrible was dead and buried, forsaking his art with remarkable good-will, in order to uphold the Protestant succession of this land which had adopted him. He knew what it was to experience the tender mercies of a Catholic father and sovereign ; and Master Paul's tall apprentice, Master Mark, walked with him, not fingering his sword-hilt so indifferently as might have been judged from his misanthropy, but involuntarily clutching it like a vice when he passed the "land" which held his thoughtless kinsfolk and Euphame Napier.

Katie was charmed with the spectacle, and was only sorry that they could not have both parties within the walls,—the Jacobites as well as the Hanoverians, the bonnets and feathers and white cockades; the noblemen, each with his train of tenants and servants, and say a cluster of the Setouns of Wintoun, to match the homely jackets and the burgher monotony of her townsmen.

Euphame did not laugh and observe and record with note-worthy speculation. Euphame fell into a reverie: was it a calculation what would become of her hospital if civil war, proscription, hardship, and poverty were in the ascendant? or what if the Goldsmiths' company were in the first encounter, and the strong life which had known so little sweetness, which had been unmindful of and unthankful for its blessings in a keen appreciation of its trials, were laid down speedily ere the accounts were balanced? or what if Master Paul rushed into danger, and could not be extricated or delivered, and the clockmaker's house was left desolate, his furnaces extinguished, his shop closed, and only gentle Madame Romieu to lament both master and man? In the lodging-house in the High Street, truth and honesty alone would never entail remembrance, if the Crichtons, Bohemianlike, could cherish solemn and hallowed associations,—unless, indeed, Mrs. Crichton had the mother's instinct to pierce through her jovial temper, and cause her to mourn in bitterness for her only son.

But the storm of battle only broke with one clap, and rattled past the good town ; far to the north or far to the south, the hosts contended or melted like snow-wreaths under "wind-changing" Mar, or crazed Foster. Just the one "tirl at the pin," the challenge of Mackintosh at Jock's Lodge, ere he drew off by the Lammermoors to join the discontented Northumbrian gentry.

Then, indeed, Edinburgh had some excuse for its bristling posture, and the faces of the burghers grew furious as well as wrathful, and they mounted their singular iron pots of helmets, and kissed wife and child, and went forth to defend their hearths or die; and the women wailed or prayed, and Katie Crichton came flying in, her body working and quivering in a fashion that threatened hysteria or syncope,—she had strolled to one of the gates, she had seen a man carried in who had been on an out-post, and engaged with a marauding Highlander, and who was groaning and sobbing and bleeding away under a cut from a broad claymore. "Hide me, hide me!" cries Katie; "they're firing their carbines right and left; they'll be in the streets in ten minutes; they'll not stay to see that we're women. A lass was hit at the Ferry. I feel the cauld steel, Euphame Napier, and everything grows red before my een. Bring up mattresses before the doors and windows. Why should we want to look out when there's no more aught pleasant to see? Who should seek to enter in? We cannot scong man or beast. You are not feared, but ither folk have more tender spirits. Euphame, Euphame Napier, quit the window-seat, and steek the door."

But Mark was there on the threshold, and while his mother disturbed him by wringing her hands over her Mark—her bonnie man—and who would defend them or maintain them if he fell? Euphame pressed up to him and grasped his hands: "You are to fight for us, Mark. Is there nought women can do ? Send us work ; let us carry provisions. I am not feeble or timid, and I am a single woman. Where is your post, Mark? I will seek you out."

"Not for your life, Euphame; but wish me good luck ere I pass to my duty."

"I do wish you good luck, Mark. I have wished you good luck in the name of the Lord."

And long ere the night fell, hotheaded yet wary Mackintosh was winding on his way with his dusky tartans and tough shields, and banners blazoned with the ruddy lion or the white rose, and the badges of the clans, the purple foxglove of the Farquharsons, and the dark green holly of the Drummonds, in close alliance with the men that bore them, his half savage but devoted Highland-men, to he within the walls of Leith, and wait to see if Argyle would be enticed to besiege him; and ere another twenty-four hours had fled, he was off, bag and baggage, by the old Musselburgh road, to take up his quarters in the great Jacobite house of Setoun, ere he rushed down on the borders. Already Mark was unbuckling his sword with a shamefaced ''tush!" and Katie was hankering after the backs of the enemy: ''For you see, lass, it would have been an odds to meet them as friends; and there will be brisk greetings, and flowing cups, and blythe dancing, the night at Setoun; and Helen Lindsay will be complimented by the officers and nobles—that still piece, Helen, a thought like Euphame Napier; and the white cockade is very setting in dark hair like mine— and the morn, when its mounting and riding with the band, and short adieus and full hearts, who kens what promises would have been ventured, and pledges offered, if only to watch and pray for Master Ludovic's safe return."

The return; ah! how was it? This was the brief triumph of that famous hunting party of my Lord Mar's, and the return was simple and certain. "When the gallant rode to Derby, With the white rose at his breast, And came back worn and wounded, With the lace torn from his vest."

{To he continued.)


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