At night he was again in
Edinburgh, the centre of Scottish science, industry, hospitality,
eccentricity,, and learning ; Edinburgh, equally celebrated for the beauty
of its ladies, and the most profound cunning of its lawyers. It was after
drum-beat, that is, eight o'clock in the evening, when he arrived at the
castle. The place seemed empty and deserted ; save the sentinels on the
batteries, not a soul was to be seen. The mess-room was dark and silent, a
sure sign of something extraordinary, as the officers were stanch votaries
of Bacchus, and seldom roosted before twelve. It immediately occurred to
Stuart that some great conflagration, or other cause of disturbance, had
happened, and that the magistrates had ordered the regiment into the city.
To ascertain the truth, he descended the citadel stairs to the main
guard-house, a building situated under the brow of the rock on which the
chapel stands, and from the crowning parapet of which Mons Meg overlooks
the city and surrounding country. 'Well, Douglas, you seem commandant
here,' said Ronald to the officer on duty, as he entered.—'How ! back
already, Stuart? I understood you had leave for six months.'
'Never mind; you'll hear
all by-and-by. I hope I may need it yet, but you seem to have the place to
yourself, and to be very sulky, too. I heard you swearing roundly at the
drummer just now.'—'The little rascal allowed the fire to go out; and as
to being sulky, in truth it would vex an apostle, or Job himself, to be
left here in command of this dismal post, when all our fellows are
enjoying themselves so famously in the city. Yesterday there was a
splendid dinner, a regular banquet, given to the sergeants and soldiers by
the inhabitants of Edinburgh. It was served up in the assembly-rooms; the
great poet, Walter Scott, in the chair, supported by the sergeant-major on
his right hand, and grim-visaged Ronald-dhu on the left. A jovial night
they had of it ! Every cart and other vehicle in Edinburgh was put in
requisition to convey our men home, as their legs had somehow failed them.
To-night the entire battalion was marched down to the theatre, free
tickets to which have been given to every man, from wing to wing. The
officers all went off about an hour ago to a splendid ball, to which they
have been invited by the elite of Edinburgh. It has been got up on a scale
never witnessed here before: our ball at Aranjuez is nothing to it. The
first people in Scotland will be there,—beauty, fashion, and all that;
while here am I, cooped up in this d------d guard-room! I have a dozen
minds to slip down and mingle with the crowd; Campbell will be too much
mystified about Egypt, by this time, to know me, and I believe I might
pass unnoticed.'—' Very disagreeable, certainly ; but not so bad as a wet
bivouac on the Sierra de Guadaloupe. Your medal, too; you lose an
opportunity of displaying it before some of the brightest eyes in
But the service------'—'
Deuce take the service !' exclaimed the other pettishly. ' If ever I am
victimized in this way again, I will sell out, or resign,—upon my honour,
'Alice will be at the
ball,' thought Ronald, as he returned to his quarters, striding up the
citadel stairs, taking three steps at a bound, resolving to attend the
assembly-rooms without delay. Notwithstanding the perturbation of his
spirits, he was dandy enough to take more than usual care with his toilet,
and he found a world of trouble in getting his sash and plaid to hang
gracefully, and arranging the heavy folding of the latter to display the
large studded brooch, four inches in diameter, which fastened it,—a jewel
that, from its brightness and size, completely eclipsed his handsome cross
of St. James and modest Waterloo medal. Of the two last-named badges he
felt not a little vain, a sentiment ex-cusable in so young a man. As a
field-officer, he no longer wore the kilt and tasselled purse. For these
the tartan truis and gilt spurs were substituted; but they became him not
the less, for the tight truis of the Celtic garb display a handsome figure
nearly as well as the warlike filleadhbeg. From the lofty windows of the
assembly-rooms a blaze of light was shed across George Street, and fell in
broad yellow flakes on the crowd of carriages of every kind, glittering
with liveries and harness, and on the upturned faces of a mob of idlers
collected around the porches, the piazzas, and portico, watching the
flitting figures of the dancers as they passed and repassed the curtained
windows. Within, every part of the building was gorgeously lighted, and
the soft music of the quadrille band, playing the airs then most in vogue,
floated along the lofty ceilings and illuminated corridors. Crowds of
gentlemen in full dress, or in uniforms, with ladies sparkling with jewels
and radiant with beauty, were gliding in every direction to cool
themselves after dancing, or to admire the tasteful decorations which met
the eye wherever it turned; and conspicuous among these, Ronald, with the
greatest delight, beheld the splintered poles and tattered colours which
he had so often borne on many a weary march and dangerous occasion. He
looked eagerly around him for Alice, and examined the figure of ever)'
lady he passed. Near the door of the hall, where the dancers were, he
almost unconsciously addressed a lady and gentleman regarding the cause of
'Will you please to tell me
if Miss Lisle is here?'
The lady and gentleman
smiled, and exchanged glances of surprise.
'Oh, undoubtedly she is,'
replied the latter. ' She is never absent on such a night as this:'
'But she never comes till
nearly eleven,' added the lady.
Stuart found that he had
been saying something foolish, but he bowed with a good grace, and mingled
with the crowd to conceal his confusion, for his face was turning as red
as his coat. The appearance of the quadrille parties was splendid. The
room was crowded with all that were gay, beautiful, or fashionable in
Edinburgh ; more than one half of the gentlemen were in uniform, or in the
tartan of their respective clans. The ladies wore a profusion of lofty
feathers, and the effect of so many rich costumes was striking and
brilliant beyond conception. Eagerly as Ronald's heart throbbed to meet
Alice, he had no intention of getting up a melodramatic scene in the
ball-room by accosting her abruptly ; he therefore made a reconnaissance
of the dancers, keeping aloof, and observing the company in the room from
amidst a group of gentlemen who were, as usual in such places, clustered
around the door. He felt a light touch upon his arm, and two soft dark
eyes were beaming pleasantly and fondly upon his.
'Ah, senor! ah, Major
Stuart!' said the fair owner with astonishment. —'Hah! Ronald, my boy!'
added another well-known voice, and his hands were grasped by those of
Lisle and his beautiful Spanish wife, who was now a fashionable belle,
with nothing of Old Castile about her except her 'wild dark eyes,' upon
which few could look without pleasure and admiration. Her superb figure
gave additional beauty to a rich dress of white satin trimmed with the
richest lace. A diamond circlet sparkled around her forehead. Virginia had
the air of a queen. The time when he had first beheld her, as the
half-demure, half-coquettish Abbess of Santa Cruz, flitted across Ronald's
mind; but it seemed more like a dream than a reality. Although on the
retired list, Lisle wore his uniform, with his empty sleeve hooked up
under the folds of his green plaid, over which hung his medal and Waterloo
'How happy I am to see
you!' exclaimed Ronald. 'I have been looking for you everywhere, amid this
gay wilderness of people. Are you all well?'—'As well as you could wish
us. Alice is here.'
'Would to Heaven I could
see her!' said Ronald.—'You shall have your wish instantly,' replied
Louis. ' 'Tis a splendid affair, this!'
'Our fellows seem to be
quite the lions of the night'—'The ball surpasses even ours in the palace
of Aranjuez,' observed Louis, glancing fondly at Virginia. 'But where is
Alice?'—' I saw her but a moment ago,' replied the donna, whose accent had
become much improved by her residence in Edinburgh. 'Oh, how happy, how
very happy she will be to see you!' Ronald's heart beat more joyously than
ever, and his impatience increased. ' Your sash hides the cross of dear
St. James,' continued the fair Castilian. 'Show it fully, amigo; such a
badge sparkles well on the breast of a soldier. Alice will love to look
upon it; and so shall I, for it will remind me of brave old Spain. We have
had many a long conversation about you, for a year past.'
'Lord Lisle is here, of
course?—'In one of the ante-rooms, with Campbell and some of the seniors.
But we must discover Alice,' said Louis; 'she is very angry with her
'How have I been so
unhappy?'—' The carriage was in the High Street yesterday when the
regiment marched in, and for nearly half an hour Alice sat in it, watching
'Good heavens! I never saw
'Your horse was jammed by
the crowd within a few yards of us; and there you remained as fast as King
Charles's statue close by, and looking in every direction except towards
us. Poor Alie was very much agitated; and you kept your back turned upon
her, with very happy nonchalance, during the whole of the Baillie's
speech, and the rest of the foolery performed in front of the
'The moment the crowd had
dispersed sufficiently, we drove to the castle; but you were off no one
knew where, and Alice was sorely displeased.'
'I was away to Lochisla,'
replied Ronald, while his brow became clouded.
The band of the Highlanders
commenced at that moment 'El Morillo,' a well-known Spanish waltz, which
they had learned abroad.
'Oh, the gay, the graceful
waltz! Let me look upon it,' said Virginia, bending forward, while her
eyes flashed with delight. 'Ah! I am dying to have a waltz. 'Tis El
'May I have the honour?'
said Ronald, taking her hand and leading her forward.—'Stay but a
moment—there is Alice.'—'Where?—ah! tell me.'—'How gracefully she steps!
Stuart looked in vain for
the Alice he had known in Perthshire.
'I shall show you
afterwards,' said the cruel donna. 'You will have quite enough of her
by-and-by; but we shall be late just now for the waltz.' Away they flew
into the brilliant maze of the waltzers, Ronald clanking his massive spurs
at every turn, in a manner he had acquired among the Spaniards.
Notwithstanding his practice among the donnas of Spain, he acquitted
himself but indifferently. Imagining that every lady who whirled past in
succession might be Alice Lisle, he looked everywhere but to the figure of
the dance, and various unpleasant shocks took place, which excessively
annoyed the Castilian precision of Virginia.
'Stay, stay!' said she; 'I
will take pity on you. You are too excited to dance. Let us withdraw, and
I will show you your fairy queen.'
They left the giddy whirl,
and after hanging half breathless on Ronald's arm for a moment, 'There is
Alice !' said Virginia.
'Where? On my honour! I
know her not. I cannot recognise her.' 'Heavens! do you not know her when
she is before you? Oh, for the eyes of a Spanish cavalier! That is Alice
in the spangled dress, with the white ostrich feathers in her hair.'
'Waltzing with the tall
fellow in the uniform of the Archer Guard— the green and gold,' added
Louis, who had joined them. 'Now they leave the dance. The archer is young
Home of Ravenspur. He has dangled after Alice for three or four weeks, but
I will make the fellow quite jealous in three minutes. Retire to one of
the lobbies, and I will bring her to you. She does not know that you are
here; but there must be no screaming or fainting, or nonsense of that
kind. I believe that, whatever she may feel, Alie will conduct herself
'For three winters past
Alice has been the reigning belle in Edinburgh,' said Virginia, as she led
forth Ronald, who had become considerably bewildered. 'She is never absent
from a single fete, assembly, or promenade; and indeed you have great
reason to be proud of her, for she causes more envy among the women, and
admiration among the men, than ever woman did before.'—'Indeed—indeed!'
murmured Ronald, scarcely knowing what he said, for Virginia's information
gave him little satisfaction. He had no objection that Alice should be a
belle, but he should be grieved to find her a coquette. The merry,
laughing Alice of Inchavon woods and braes, the slender girl of seventeen,
with her curls flowing wide and free, had become a stately young lady of
two-and-twenty, with her hair braided and tortured by a fashionable
dresser, surmounted by a floating plume of feathers. Her cheek was paler,
and the bloom of rustic health had given place to the graceful air of a
young-lady of ton. Her form was taller and rounder, and------
'Here she comes!' said
Virginia, cutting short Ronald's reflections. He became agitated and
confused when he saw Louis approaching with a lady in a bright dress
leaning on his arm. 'She is more beautiful and more devoted to you than
ever; so, amigo, take courage,' said Virginia, pressing his hand. 'She
knows nothing of what I saw in the convent of Jarciejo, and never shall.
Believe me, Ronald, her heart has never in the slightest thought wandered
from its love to you.'
'Alice! dearest Alice!'
said Ronald, springing forward, and throwing an arm around her, while she
sank upon his breast, too much agitated to speak. But immediately she
disengaged herself, and a deep blush suffused her face and neck, rendering
her beauty still more striking. Timidly and hurriedly she looked around,
to see whether others than her brother and Virginia had observed this
'Be brave, Alie,' said
Louis;' there are none here but friends.'
'Pho—such a bashful
couple!' exclaimed Virginia. 'What, not a single kiss to give and
exchange, after being separated so long?
'Ronald, love!' faltered
Alice, trembling violently, while she tendered her flushed cheek. He then
drew her arm through his and led her towards some of the cool passages,
that she might recover from her agitation, and that the tumult of her
spirits might pass away. How supreme was their delight! Everything and
everyone were forgotten in the rapture of that meeting, and there were two
hearts pure and happy—wondrously happy—in the midst of all that gay and
'How delighted dear papa
will be to see you! said Alice, after the first outpouring of their joy
and affection had subsided,—an affection which had surmounted all the
perils of long separation, the temptations of the gay world, and the
dangers of a furious war. They had not looked upon each other's faces for
five years—years of grief, doubt, and anxiety; and now, how happy ! to
find themselves united again, never to separate while on earth. ' How
happy papa will be to see you!'—'Not more than I shall be to see him,
'Papa is here somewhere. I
saw him only ten minutes ago, with that Celtic Goliath, your colonel. They
will be looking at the dancers.' 'You must dance the next quadrille with
me, Alice?'—' I am engaged a dozen deep. I am engaged for every dance the
night before a ball; and that goose in green, young Home,—heavens! what
shall I do?'
'Dance with me, and
apologize. I am determined to keep you for the remainder of the night, in
spite of Home and all these holiday guardsmen !' and he led her towards
How many old and fond
recollections were awakened by the sound of her gentle voice ! Ronald hung
with the purest delight upon every word she uttered. With the same
emotions Alice listened to him, wondering that the slender youth whose
fair unshaven cheek had been so often pressed to her own had become the
perfect model of a soldier,—stout and well-knit in figure, accustomed to
his arms and harness, and rendered swarth in visage by continued exposure
to a continental sun. They felt an honest pride in each other as they
moved through the crowded rooms, and many eyes followed them ; for the
badges sparkling on Ronald's breast, and a slight scar on his sunburnt
face, declared that he had acquitted himself well in the field, while
Alice was the leading star, the reigning queen, of the fashionable world
in Edinburgh. Ronald's welcome by the old lord was as hearty and as kind
as he could have wished. He introduced him to Mr. (afterwards Sir Walter)
Scott, to Jeffrey, Christopher North, and some other leading characters,
who were assembled in one of the ante-rooms. The striking figure of
Christopher, with his lank hair hanging over his shoulders like a
water-god's, attracted his attention particularly. Campbell was seated in
a snug arm-chair, and was detailing sundry anecdotes of Sir Ralph to
Scott, who listened to his prosing with his usual politeness and good
nature. Except in a foursome reel, Campbell had not been dancing that
night. For all fashionable measures he entertained a supreme contempt ;
the strathspey, or the sword-dance, was his delight and his forte. At the
other end of the supper-table, ladling hot punch, sat the celebrated
Johnnie Clerk (Lord Eldon), to whom Lisle introduced Stuart, who was
rather surprised by the oddity of his language and observations. On his
saying something complimentary about the society of Edinburgh, Johnnie
replied, 'The lassies were weel aneuch; but as for the society, it's no
just as it was in my young days, when I first coopit the parliament house
wi' the tails o' my goon.'
'How so?' asked
Scott.—'Because Edinburgh is just like a muckle kailpot,—a' the scum is
coming to the top.'
Lord Lisle, Scott, and
Christopher, Johnnie Clerk and Campbell, had been sitting beside the
decanters for some time, and had contrived to get considerably merry. As
usual, Scott was the life of the party, and none enjoyed more than he did
the queer stories told him by Campbell about the Highlanders, the
adventure with old Mahommed Djedda, the march to Grand Cairo, the campaign
in Corsica, and Heaven knows all what more. Stuart, with Alice, returned
to the ball-room, where they danced together nearly the remainder of the
night ; Alice braving the displeasure of certain beaux, who, although they
were sorely displeased at being jilted, were too well-bred, or perhaps too
wary, to take any unpleasant notice of it. Meanwhile, the little party in
the ante-room became quite convivial, and Campbell, in the midst of his
glee, proposed to give the company a song. This offer being applauded, he
commenced at once, while Clerk beat time with his ladle and bowl.
'When Abercrombie, gallant
Made Britain's foes to tack again,
To fight by him it was my lot;
But now I'm safe come back again.'
With a brimming glass in
one hand, and a decanter of sherry in the other, he sung the nine verses
of this patriotic song in a style peculiarly his own, but as loud as it
was out of place; and Ronald, when dancing in the ballroom, heard the
tones of his stentorian voice above even the music of the band. The
colonel insisted upon Scott singing in turn, although he protested that he
was no singer. However, as it was usual in such cases, he gave them a few
staves of the old ditty 'Tarry woo',' his only song, and one which he very
much admired for its old style of verse and quaintness of expression. More
songs succeeded, and they enjoyed themselves as much as men could do amid
good company and good wine. Christopher at last set the example of
speech-making, because it was an art in which he particularly excelled :
he proposed 'The health of Major Stuart, the hero of Almarez, etc' Doctor
Stuart returned thanks in the name of his clansman; but the wine having
slightly obscured his perceptions, his speech, somehow, went off into a
dissertation upon gunshot wounds, and the treatment of fractures, simple
and compound. It was five in the morning before this splendid fete
concluded. How many headaches or heartaches ensued next day, and how many
loves were lost and won, has nothing to do with my story; but several
gentlemen flirts—the tall archer especially—went home breathing war and
defiance, hair-triggers and rifle-balls, against Stuart, who was too much
of a soldier to value their resentment a rush, although he received some
distant hints of it.
Other balls and gaieties
succeeded, and during the whole of that happy winter the officers of the
Highlanders were the lions of Edinburgh. The 78th, the brave Ross-shire
Buffs, who arrived soon after, came in for a share of the general
attention and festivities. The mess-room tables were covered every morning
with invitation-cards. The young ladies had all caught the scarlet-fever,
and would certainly have pulled each other's caps had they worn any; and
even the match-making mammas had work enough upon their hands, and were
half worried to death—as they deserved.