Two lovers came one morning in
The amorous month of May;
They wedded were at Gretna Green,
And then they went away.
When we were at the King's
Head one certain morning, mistress Beattie related unto us how, in the merry
and amorous month of May, she, and her husband Alexander, were roused up out
of their quiet slumbers by an infinite alarum at the hostelrie door,
committed by the impatience of two eager children who dearly loved each
other. These two desired to be tied in holy bands, and had come there
hastily for the purpose. We all know that " the course of true love never
did run smooth," not with anybody who ever knew what " the course of true
love" was: there was nothing strange then in the idea that they should have
experienced difficulties and prevention. There was a something that stood in
their way, some let, some impediment, which " forbid the banns." Now, for
this very reason they loved the .more, and so much the more burnt with a
fiercer affection. A contemplative mind will take pleasure in turning over
the varied traits and peculiarities of this most perverse passion, and of
holding up its phases and features to the view of different lights; and to a
contemplative mind, that arrives at conclusions from the sober consideration
of many examples, this really is the most perverse passion that ever found
place within the compass of our nature. Like the darnel discoursed of by
poets, which flourisheth more, the more it is crushed under foot; so love,
the more it is opposed and thwarted, and denied, so much the more doth it
rage to attain its object, and so much the more doth it grow and increase in
strength. It thrives upon denial, and flourishes upon vexation; it buds with
opposition; blooms with hinderance, and it ripens under prevention.
"It was at the remarkable
hour of four o'clock in the morning," said mistress Beattie, " in the
amorous month of May, as I told you, and if my memory serve truly, in the
memorable year 1837, that a carriage sped from England, right over the
Border, and into the midst of the village; nor pulled bridle, bit, nor curb,
until it attained unto the door of this hostelrie. But the fact of a
carriage bouncing impatiently into the village, was a matter of every day
occurrence—and it might be of every night occurrence, too, or day or night
indifferently, just as it might happen—sometimes one, sometimes the other,
for we never know when, or which before hand, nor much care; so that the
noise which the wheels made needed no explanation for us who understand our
business, as most people do who live by it, and thrive therein."
"Exactly, and well said."
"Why, look you, good sir: it
is to these visits that Springfield owes everything. How, think you, we
could exist, hold together, keep life in our bodies, buy bread, if a little
money was not now and then brought into the place by these means? What else
have we to depend upon? Our neighbours up and down the street are poor,
labour is slack, and wages, of course, are scarce; and since the making of
the new road, the greater part of the travellers who used to pass our door
now go through the Gre6n, and never come near us. Before this alteration, or
improvement, as they were pleased to phrase it, the chief way from Carlisle
lay through Longtown, and so on right up the village here, onward into
Scotland; but alas and well-away for Springfield, the improvement has gone
far to ruin us all."
"National improvements, you
see, cannot look to the private interests of individuals; and it is
incumbent on the few to make certain personal sacrifices for the benefit of
the many: when they do this, it is called philanthropy."
"Then phi— something is
ruination, and ought to be called fie-for-shame."
"It is doing unto others that
which you would wish them to do unto you."
"Goodness gracious! no sir,
not at all in this instance, for they have nearly ruined me, and I am sure I
would not wish to ruin them."
"I mean that, by submitting
to these losses for the benefit of giving all your countrymen and
countrywomen, and all the whole world if it comes here, a better road to
travel by, you do to them just what you would wish them to do to you,
supposing any one else had kept the "King's Head," and you yourself had
wanted a better road to travel over through this parish."
"I like good roads when I go
a journeying, and I do na care if people will be so good as to pay for them
; but really I canna say that I like to have the profits of my trade run
"Very hard, very hard,
doubtless; but it is a christian principle to deprive ourselves for the sake
of advantaging our neighbours. If we forget this principle we become
"I hate selfish folks, I
"There is no merit in
assisting others if it costs you nothing yourself."
"Peradventure you are right
"Come, then, let us hear the
sequel of this story. Although your business may have suffered a little by
the change, still it is not yet bankrupt: I venture to say you did not lose
by these visitors: let us have the rest."
"Well, they beat the door
with the pommels of their whips, and they called at the window: sleep was
scared from our eyes, and we looked out of the lattice down upon them : they
cried ' Haste, come you and let us in, for our need is great; time is
precious, life is short, and love is impatient.' So we harkened to their
call, and quickly let them in, thinking that it was as pleasant to grow rich
in the night (for 'twas scarce anything else) as in the day—for riches
acquired at night will profit a person when day cometh. The carriage door
was opened, the steps were let down, and a gentleman and lady issued
therefrom, and entered here, even into this actual room. You know all about
my Lord Erskine, for it was detailed to you before. My husband, careful man,
went off to Simon Laing incontinently and without tarry; him he got from his
drowsy bed with eyes scarce open, yet nothing loth after all (to do him
justice) for he is always ready to do a kindly action unto those who be in
distress. The postilion raised his finger to ithe front of his cap, and he
said, ' Shall I put the horses into the stable?' I, however, turned to the
lady and gentleman, and inquired, whether they would abide under my roof
till breakfast or so? But they said, nay; that they purposed wending back
into their own country whence they came, as soon as the matter in hand was
over; that they never cat breakfast or anything so gross, but feasted upon
love, and revelled in the perpetual banquet of affection. Wherefore, good
sir, I said nothing more about my poor bread and butter."
We nodded approvingly.
"As, therefore," continued
the hostess, "they showed themselves as eager to leave us when we should
have served them, as they had been to seek us, wanting of that service, I
told the postboy that there was no need or call whatsoever to unbrace his
beasts, that we would not keep him five minutes, and that he might
consequently let his horses and his carriage stand at the door where they
were. My husband now returned with the weaver, and by his help the affair
was carried through as speedily and as effectually as such matters always
are here. When it was over, the bridegroom paid the priest like a gentleman;
and then the lady turned round to me and said, ' Why, don't you get anything
for all this trouble?' 1 answered the lady,— she was a nice, kind, pleasant,
lady too, sir,—I answered that I was satisfied to see her well married, that
I gave x her joy, and hoped she would be happy. That the priest was the
person that was usually remembered, and that he had by no means been
forgotten by her husband. ' Well,' she said, ' but we have come to your
house and called you up out of your bed and out of your sleep; we have made
you come down to attend on us, and open your doors to receive us, and it
would hardly be justice to let you' go unguestioned.' Now this, sir, was
uttered with a great deal of consideration,—what think you?"
"Of course it was: and you
will often find, Mistress Beattie, that ladies have their wits about them in
critical positions with a remarkable promptitude, when men would by no means
be so acute."
"Well now, it was beautiful
the way she turned about to me, that it was, because it came all so
unlooked-for like and so unexpected: that she should have thought about me
just at that moment, when I fancied she would not have been able to know
whether she was standing on her head or her heels —as most people don't when
they are married."
"But that reveals this very
admirable trait of feminine promptitude of which I was speaking—a quality
which they have in perfection, when the more heavy natures and greater
gravity of men make them less alive to momentary acts of acuteness."
"Aweel, aweel; I ken that
women are more hasty, more quick, more ready than men be, for-the most part.
"Men are more plodding and
more deliberative ; and they will rather set about calculating the chances
of the step they may have in contemplation, than make a hazard to achieve
it: women, on the contrary, go at it in a moment, and whilst a man is
considering, a woman will have done it by one dash.
"She must have had a lively
wit to think of her hostess at such an anxious time. A gentleman in such a
case, though he would have meant as well, and felt as liberal, and been just
as desirous to do justice to every body, would have forgotten it at the very
nick of time as it were, and only have remembered it when he was in his
carriage, and more at ease, or more in a state to reflect on all the points
of the case. Then he would have cried out that he had quite forgotten the
hostess in his hurry, and how sorry he was to have done so ; how provoking
that he should have omitted her at the time of coming away; and how he would
sooner turn back and give her her deserts, than let her suppose that he had
wronged her on purpose."
"A very possible thing to
have happened, Mistress Beattie."
"I do na mean to say that
this gentleman would have done so, for he was all desire to think of every
one that was present: but you know, sir, he had many things to think about,
and the responsibility of the business lay especially upon his own
shoulders, as he had taken so active a part in coming from home, and in
taking the lady from her father's house. So that the anxieties of how he
should make the matter up at his return, might well distract his mind from
sober reflection whilst he was here."
"Oh ! most true ! But what
did the lady go on to say?"
"Why, as I was telling you,
sir; when the priest had been handsomely rewarded, she turned to me, and
asked what I was to have ? But I said I was content to see her happy and
that would do ; but she declared that they had called me up and given me a
world of trouble, that they had, and then, said she, these were her very
words, ' We have made you open your doors to receive us, the priest has been
remunerated well, and you, whose toil has been just as great, are content to
serve us for the reward of seeing us well married !' She said no more, sir,
not another word, but took a purse from her pocket, and quietly dropped it
into my hand. She was in rare good spirits the whole time, and skipped back
again into the carriage as light as a fairy—and off they drove."
Out of consideration and
deference toward this lady, we are disposed not to mention her name here ;
suffice it, she was the daughter of a Right Reverend Father in God, a Bishop
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, whose cathedral doth adorn an
ancient city lying toward the south-western part of that portion of the
aforesaid Great Britain, ycleped England: and if it be that a man may spare
a child, having many more, verily his Lordship can endure to spare this one
Now this was taking a hasty
step—as the racehorse said when he was going full split round the course
and if perpetrated in defiance of the will and pleasure of those to whose
counsel we should give heed, it were a hasting towards evil a deal too fast.
Such evil journeys are for the most part carried through with infinite
celerity ; and ill luck betide the cattle that pace the last stage to the
bourn of iniquity, or, in other words, the bourn 'twixt England and
Scotland. Hence it is, as herein above set forth, that this stage over
Solway Moss, is never ambled at an easy pace, but with the rapidity of
thought passing from one place to another, " which ten times faster moves
than the sun's beams;" and the ancient proverb telleth wherefore and for
what reason they always do speed so amazingly on this wicked journey, to
wit:—One must needs go fast, when the devil driveth.
There is a talk of carrying
the northern rail-road, which passes by the western side of the country,
even on from Lancaster to Penrith, through Gretna Green, and so to
Kilmarnock into Albyn. Now this dire project could have been designed by
none other than Satan (who is the very devil for mischief), in order to
smooth and facilitate the course toward wrong. The face of the country in
these parts is level and fitting for such a purpose; and if the said
railroad ever is impiously directed into the western Highlands, of a truth
it assuredly must go right through this particular place, as the ground lies
so favourable for it in an engineering point of view.
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