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Tales of the Scottish Peasantry
The Fate of the Fairest


Oh! there are some
Can trifle in cold vanity with all
The warm soul's precious throbs—to whom it is
A triumph that a fond devoted heart
Is breaking for them—who can bear to call
Young flowers into beauty, and then crush them.

Landon.

"The Nethertown," where the scene of the following story of the heart is laid, consists of a moderately extensive farming establishment, with about twenty low, ill-constructed, old-fashioned houses standing mostly to the northward of it, some "haflins seen, and haflins hid." Of the farm it is superfluous to speak: a neat house, barn, and stables, erected a few years ago, and covered with blue slate, have made it modern enough, But in the appearance of the other houses, all the rustic simplicity and rude architecture of an earlier age may still be traced. After all the innovations and improvements to which the first thirty years of the nineteenth century gave birth, there they stood with their low walls, built in some instances with clay instead of mortar—roofs composed of alternate layers of thatch and turf—chimney-tops with a rope of twisted straw around them to keep them together, and doors so low that their inhabitants were obliged to "loot low " before they could enter. Another feature of days departed was the little gardens, in which were cultivated small quantities of cabbages and potatoes surrounded by what, to a stranger's eye, or indeed to any eye, might seem a nettle bank instead of a wall. The houses were disposed in no regular order, but stood in groups of two or three together, generally in the lowest places of an undulating surface, while the intermediate and higher ground was occupied as gardens in the way already noticed. Narrow green lanes formed the only communication between them,—sometimes crooked, sometimes straight, as the fancy of our forefathers bad been.

To the eastward of the Nethertown the country is open, and the prospect varied by patches of wood, hedges, farm-steadings, and little eminences. But, on the west, a continuation of high ground, which rises at no great distance, and terminates in a precipice of considerable height, shuts in the view in that direction. These hills are characterised by that abrupt scenery which marks the boundary of the Ochils. In one of the ridges there is a deep gorge, or opening, through which winds a hill road, where, at certain seasons of the year, the setting sun, striking down between the almost perpendicular banks on either side, floods with light a long stripe of corn field, stream, and lake, while the surrounding country is lost in shadows.

At the extremity of the gorge, where "a hamlet smiles,'' a rough bank slopes to the margin of a gurgling stream, which wends its way through an adjoining hollow called The Den. Here the ever-blossoming furze, the wild flowers which shoot forth in all the luxuriance of uncultivated nature, and the stream, with its struggling waters more than half-concealed by the matted grass which fringes its edges, formed a scene perfectly in unison with the rustic habitations above.

Farther down the Den, and a little to the northward of the houses, there is a level spot called The Green, where the waters of the stream were collected in a number of small dams called demmens, for the purpose of bleaching. And here, on a summer's evening, while the sun shoots his last red rays from the hollow pass, are often seen a band of laughing girls from the houses above, with naked feet of fawn-like lightness—arms bare nearly to the shoulders—neckerchiefs carelessly thrown aside, or disarrayed in such a manner as to show the whiteness of necks and bosoms, on which the noon-day sun was not permitted to look—eyes all bright with the beam of youth, and locks braided with the greatest care,—gathering in their linen which had been exposed, during the day, to bleach or dry.

"Where the carcase is, thither shall the eagles be gathered," is a Scripture apothegm: Where young women are, there will the youth of the other sex be found also, is an aphorism scarcely less true. There also might have been seen a band of youngsters from the neighbouring farms, with faces newly washed from the sweat and dust of the day. There lurking affection shone out; and while mirth convulsed the features and shook the nerves of every one present, the eyes of youth and maiden met with a quick and bright intelligence that sent the heart's blood dancing to the cheek.

In its own appearance, and the appearance of its inhabitants, there was much in the Nethertown on which, the eye of the philanthropist might have rested with pleasure. The groups of young and happy faces at the Green, the contented looks of the older part of the community, and the absence of everything like bustle and confusion, gave an air of quiet happiness to the whole. Amid this scene of rural simplicity and retirement, men had tenanted the houses where they first drew breath, till the snows of four-score years had whitened their heads and bent their bodies. Maids had there become mothers and grandmothers; and individuals over whose heads nearly a century had passed, had died in the very bed where their feeble cries were first heard. Indeed, had it not been for a smithy and Wright's shop, it is highly probable that the Nether-town would not have received a single new inhabitant in many years. These, however, served occasionally to introduce a stranger to this little society, when an additional hand was wanted, or a vacancy occurred, at either of the establishments. The place seemed a sort of concealment which poverty had never been able to discover, and its inhabitants looked like happy fixtures. But to estimate the happiness of any society, it is necessary that we should be acquainted with the history and feelings of the individuals who compose it, and such an acquaintance would, to a certainty, have operated as a sad drawback upon those romantic visions which the contemplation of such a scene was calculated to inspire.

This imperfect, and, perhaps, unsatisfactory sketch, is the result of observations made, during a short period of his life, which the writer passed in the vicinity of the Nethertown. He was then an occasional idler at the Green, and sometimes, though seldom, a listener in the houses. In this way he became acquainted with most of its inhabitants; but as the heart is often arbitrary in its selections, there were only two who particularly interested him.

The one was the sewing-mistress, an individual well down the vale of years. She had married young, and her husband had been torn from her by death shortly after. In her the influence of years had mellowed the affections of a heart naturally warm, and that love which had once been centred in a single object, now took a wider range, and displayed itself in the tenderest sympathy for the sufferings of her fellow-creatures, and a kindly deportment to all who came within the circle of her acquaintance.

The other was a young woman in the last of her teens, who hitherto had attracted little notice. Her father, in the prime of life, had been a farm-servant, but from increasing years and infirmities, he had lately abandoned this employment for the more humble occupation of a labourer. Her mother was a tall and rather coarse-looking woman, with nothing to distinguish her from the class to which she belonged. In their family they had been particularly unfortunate: some had made early and imprudent marriages; some had wandered they knew not whither; others were confirmed drunkards; and of six children, Christina alone, who was the youngest, promised to be the stay and comfort of their old age. Recent times had made the art of weaving almost as common among women as it was formerly among men; she had been taught this art, and as her apprenticeship had expired, she now lived with her parents, ministering to their increasing wants with her scanty earnings.

It seemed as if Providence in bestowing her had meant to compensate for the profligacy of their other children. Her disposition was gentle and amiable. Filial affection, and a desire to obliterate from her parents' minds the recollection of their children's disobedience and misconduct, made her diligent at her work. In winter her lamp might be seen throwing its cheerful light from the window where she wrought, and the music of her shuttle heard every morning long before the other girls of the place had thought of quitting their beds. At fairs, and other places of resort, she was seldom seen; gossiping parties she never frequented; even at the Green, that common haunt of fair faces and happy hearts, she was a rare visitor; and except at church on Sabbath-day, she was almost never from home.

In person, she was rather under than above the middle size, but of the most exquisite proportions. Her features were of that pensive cast which is not incompatible with the play of innocent mirth; and in the calm of her deep blue and eloquent eyes there was a tender light which seemed never to have been clouded by angry or tempestuous passions,—affection, gentleness, and peace dwelt in them. It would be difficult to convey an accurate idea of her complexion; it could not properly be classed with either the pale, the brunette, or the florid, though it certainly approached the first more nearly than either of the other two. Her being employed mostly in the house had protected her from that tan which is the consequence of exposure to the sun; and while the wanderings of the " violet vein" might have been traced along the transparent whiteness of her brow or cheek, the blood seemed to mantle beneath a thin veil of snow, slightly tinging the pure covering with its warm stream. When she was excited by the recital of wrongs patiently borne, or touched with the tale of joy or sorrow, the inspired blood appeared to mount, a brighter spirit shone in her eye, the flash of soul beamed from her whole countenance; and having seen her thus, it were impossible to form an idea of anything more interesting or more unaffectedly beautiful. The only young woman in the Nethertown, or near it, who at all approached her in personal charms, was the shoemaker's daughter, Jeanie Muir. While some affirmed that she was nearly as fair, others maintained that she was far behind even in this respect—but all allowed that she was totally destitute of that inspired beauty which the heart alone can convey to the countenance.

No one had ever suspected Christina of being in love; and what was still more strange, no one had ever heard of her having a lover! She had never once thought of the subject herself. A shrinking sense of the ill-fame which had fallen on more than one of her brothers, and a wish to shield her parents from the scathing thought of their degradation, had hitherto occupied her mind to the almost total exclusion of anything else. But this could not last: the vivid expression which at times bright-tened over her countenance proved that she was made for the extreme of either happiness or misery. There was in her nature too many of those qualities which constitute the one or the other, for both spring from* the same source, to admit of » cold mediocrity. The fate of the fairest was yet in the balance, and equally poised, but her hour was approaching.

Early in the spring of 1830, a young man called James Dixon came to the village seeking employment, and the wright engaged him. "His face was handsome, eyes fine, mouth gracious." That facility of purpose, and quickness of perception, which are so often found in youth—a-warm heart, and a wish always to please, formed the basis of his character. He had, moreover, a sort of natural gallantry and good humour, which, added to his other qualities, soon made him a great favourite with the young women of the place. He was violent in his likings, but inconstant. He spared no pains to gratify the slightest freak of fancy, but the whim of to-day lost its relish on the morrow.

When the bleaching season arrived, the young wright became a constant attendant at the Green; and his handsome face, his smile, his humour, and his wish to please, added a new source of attraction to the little evening parties which frequently assembled there. Passing along a green lane on his return home one evening, he chanced to meet Christina, and tried to detain her a few minutes by conversation; but she seemed to be in a hurry, and answered him without stopping -—this was the first time he had seen her.

Some days after this event, her mother being fatigued, Christina, after her daily toils, went to the Green to "bring in the claes." Here she found herself in the company of six or eight young persons of both sexes, and among the rest Jamie the wright. Upon this occasion he seemed to take no notice of her, but his pleasantries, and the humorous tricks which he played upon the other girls, were unceasing. He put two pieces of paper on each side of his pocket-knife, and by a dexterous sleight, [The trick is performed thus: wet the blade of a knife, and place two pieces of paper at about an inch and a-half, or two inches, separate on each side; hold it in your left hand in a position nearly horizontal, resting the point upon your knee or on a table, and with the forefingers of your right hand wipe off the paper which is nearest the point on one side, saying at the same time "There is one there." Give the knife a sudden turn, but instead of turning the other side up, turn it quite round, so that the same side may be uppermost again, and before the deception can be discovered, pass your fingers quickly over the place from which you had formerly wiped the paper, saying, as before, "There is one there." Repeat the operation with the remaining 'paper, changing the words to "There is none there." You will thus have one side of the knife with two papers on it, and the other with none, while the onlookers will believe that the whole are off. Flourish it in the air, putting it over your shoulder, and whistling at the same time, then bring it down with that side uppermost on which the two papers are still sticking, and say, "There are two there." After this yon may amuse onlookers as long as you please by showing the knife alternately with and without papers, only taking care to turn it rapidly. Some practice is necessary to enable a person to perform the trick with dexterity and success.]

made them believe that he wiped them off one by one, and then brought the whole back and replaced them with a whistle. He tried to pin bits of brown paper or rags on their backs, and mimicked their affected wrath when he was discovered. He offered to assist them in gathering up their clothes, well knowing that his services would not be accepted, and when they came to drive him away, he fled; while the offended parties, taking the hint, chased him round the Green, throwing wet clothes at him as they ran. By these good-humoured oddities, he succeeded so well in drawing the attention of the spectators, that in a short time they seemed to have forgotten everything else in laughing at him. Christina was among those who looked and listened; and oftener than once she laughed till her eyes filled with tears. The merriment and fun was kept up till she was ready to depart, when, as if to play a trick on her, the young wright snatched up her basket and ran off with it. But instead of running round the Green with it, he carried it directly to her mother's door, and set it down with the greatest care, then turning round, held up both his hands, as if to deprecate the wrath of the panting maiden who followed. Breathless with running, she could scarcely speak; but instead of teasing her like the others, he had done her all the service in his power, and she thanked him with a smile. The young wright felt the power of that smile, and answering it with another, he ran back to the Green. But his tricks and oddities were over for that evening; the whole party appeared dull; and after standing for a few minutes, during which a yawn went rpund, hroke up simultaneously.

"O love! what art thou in this world of ours?" How simple and almost imperceptible are thy beginnings, and yet what havoc of peace and happiness hast thou made in many a heart! For the next five or six days, Christina was not at the Green. But when her mother's bleaching day again came round, she again came to "bring hame the claes,"—again she met Jamie Dixon, and again he ran off with her basket. The unaffected wish to please rarely fails in its effect: again the artless maiden thanked him with a smile, but on this occasion it was accompanied with a few words expressive of her gratitude for his kindness. After this, she went oftener out "to take the air," in the evening or at mid-day, than was her wont, and as a matter of course, was oftener in the way of meeting the young wright. At first, a mutual smile of recognition, and the common observation about the state of the weather, constituted the whole of their intercourse. But ere another month had elapsed, they would stand together for a few minutes to tell or hear some piece of news, and then they would part, as they had met, with a smile—each turning to take a backward look at the other. Sometimes it happened that both looked about at the same time, and then they would smile again. By and by these little conversations became more frequent and prolonged; they would look around to see if they were observed, and pass abruptly if any one was near. After this, it was soon noticed that at the Green and elsewhere, Jamie the wright always appeared to be happiest and in the highest spirits when Christina was present, while the smile was oftener upon her cheek when he was near than at any other time. If he spoke in her praise, she would blush, turn away her head, pick up a blade of grass, and busy herself iu folding it up, as if she had not heard him.

In small societies, every trifle becomes the subject of conversation. Suspicions were now entertained of their being in love; and those suspicions were confirmed, when, after having gone up the burn one evening to gather water-cresses, Christina was seen slowly returning with the supposed object of her affection by her side, and observed to part from him before they reached the houses, each taking a separate road. Her neighbours now threw out sly hints in her presence, which brought the crimson rushing to her cheeks, and put the state of her affections beyond a doubt.

Her smiles were now entirely suppressed in the presence of her lover, and if she met him at the Green, or in any of those little parties which sometimes assembled in the lanes during leisure hours, the few words she uttered were always addressed to some other. But if he left the party first, her eye followed him till he disappeared, and then she sighed deeply. If a footstep were heard approaching the window when she was at work, she would pause and listen attentively till the individual passed, and if it chanced to be him, she would sit for a time apparently absorbed in profound thought, with her eyes fixed on vacancy, and her hands idly folded across her bosom,

These little occurrences were carefully noted by the neighbours, and Christina was frequently compelled to hear an account of her own blushes and sighs, and to be taxed with that affection which she could so ill conceal. Too modest and timid to confess openly her feelings, and by far too honest and ingenuous to deny what she secretly felt to be true, she had no other resource but to bear all in silence, and labour in future to suppress her sighs, and curb her blushes.

Lovers are objects at whom every one deems himself entitled to level the shafts of raillery; and the young wright had also to endure his share; but to him it gave little annoyance. He could make jests at his own expense, and laugh with those who made them for him. Sometimes he would deny every thing with humorous effrontery, and at others he would plead guilty to every charge which was brought against him. Thus he puzzled and baffled those who wished to tease him; and when they found that their efforts were ineffectual, they in general soon gave it up.

Matters thus went on, till new events gave to the good people of the Nethertown new topics of conversation. Christina and Jamie Dixon were looked upon as affianced lovers; and though they were seen together, it was considered merely a thing of course, and scarcely spoken of. The ramble to the hill for blackberries—the walk up the burn to gather flowers —and the errand to the town, deferred till evening that they might go together, continued as before.

The growth of affection is often of such a nature, that it were difficult even for those who have experienced it in all its stages to describe it. A look when hundreds are between, and no word can be spoken—a touch of the hand—a cadence of the voice, even in common conversation—may make a deep impression on the memory, "and come, and come again," in moments of solitary musing, till the imagination has magnified it into an ideal world of tenderness and love. Love is like an indigenous plant; nature has provided for its growth, and no extraordinary care or cultivation is required to bring it to maturity.

Thus it was with Christina. Formed by nature for the most tender and lasting affection, love had opened up to her a new existence, and supplied her with a new train of thoughts. Her heart no longer wandered, like the bee, from flower to flower, among that little round of associations which had formerly occupied it. One image alone was imprinted upon it —the name of one object was written there; and these were all in all to her. To recollect every varying shade of his countenance—to ponder over every word he had spoken—and thence to draw indications of all those amiable qualities which add to domestic felicity;—to form excuses for his trifling faults, and in his virtues to find sure signs of that excellence which, when matured and known, would draw the esteem of all;—these occupied every hour of her waking time, and every day added something new, which "lent to loneliness delight!" Not that fears did not sometimes intrude—for fears and ardent affection are often married together; but when they were past, they only served to make the pleasing reflections which followed more pleasant, as pain, when it is removed, serves to heighten the enjoyment which we derive from health, while yet the contrast is fresh. Upon the whole, her life at this period resembled a happy dream, over which hope was the presiding power, while fears only came occasionally. And in that dream The summer passed away—the autumn faded into winter—the winter brightened into spring—and spring was again expanding into summer—without having produced any material change.

The buds and blossoms were bursting from the trees; the birds ''made wild music rife" on every common and in every grove; the Green was again covered with its load of clean-washed linen, and again at eventide fair forms, happy faces, and hearts full of glee, flitted round it. At this gay season there is an annual fair at the little town of N------, and thither, on the appointed day, Christina's lover easily persuaded her to accompany him. On the road, and in the crowded marketplace, he treated her with the most sedulous attention. He took her to see the shows of wild beasts, and the exhibitions of jugglers; then he led her down to the harbour to " see th>' shipping;" and while she hung on his arm, he pointed out every novelty which he supposed worthy of her notice. He was constantly by her side, protecting her from the pressure, and choosing for her those situations where the objects of interest might be best seen. "When they had satisfied their curiosity with these, he led her up to the hill above the town, where they had an extensive view of the Frith. It was a spring-tide, and its bosom presented a scene to her so new and striking, that she seemed to forget all, save the youth by her side, in silent wonder. Far off, amid the dim haze of the waters, the distant ships might be seen emerging, as it were, from the clouds, and appearing no larger than so many whit« specks on the horizon. Somewhat nearer they lay still and motionless, with all their spread of canvas, like leviathans slumbering on the deep. Nearer still, or rather immediately below, some were drawing in to the little port, while others were moving majestically past, with their white wings spread to catch the breeze—breaking the blue waters into foam, and leaving a long rippling track behind them.

All this was new to Christina. Her heart was in unison with the picturesque and beautiful, and she thought she had never in her life seen any thing half so worthy of admiration. Those who have looked, for the first time, on a number of new and interesting objects, in the presence, of the being whom they most love, and felt their interest increased by the consciousness that that being was participating the same pleasure, and sharing the same emotions, with themselves, may perhaps be able to form a better idea of what her feelings were upon this occasion, than any which words could convey.

The day had been remarkably fine, but toward evening the sky became cloudy,—-a few peals of distant thunder were heard, and a rattling shower of rain forced the lovers to hasten to the town, and take refuge in a close called the Wide Entry. This was nothing more than a passage through below the houses; and, in a few minutes it was crowded with people seeking shelter from the shower. "While standing here a rude fellow, who fancied himself pinched for room, began to thrust a young woman, who stood next him, out into the rain, by offering her such indignities, as made her prefer being drenched to the skin to returning and standing beside him. Christina, who knew the girl, requested Jamie, in a whisper, to interfere in her behalf. He did so; and, as several others appeared willing to take her part,, the fellow was driven forth to seek shelter elsewhere, while she was again received under the protecting roof, and better accommodated than before.

The violence of the storm had abated, and dwindled into a drizzling rain; and twilight was begun when the lovers, under the canopy of a solitary umbrella, set out on their homeward journey. Neither the inclemency of the weather, nor bad roads, were any inconvenience to Christina, since they afforded her companion an opportunity of performing many little acts of kindness and attention, which enhanced her comfort and happiness. When they were within a mile of the Nethertown, a small party of acquaintances overtook them, and some miscellaneous conversation ensued; but the new comers soon passed on; and, when they were out of hearing, Christina's companion inquired at her, "who it was that walked on the left hand side of the road?" She informed him that she was the shoemaker's daughter, and the very woman on whose behalf he had interfered during the rain; that she had come from her service to spend the summer half-year with her father; and, moreover, that she was wont to be considered the bonniest lass about the Nethertown. She concluded, by artlessly asking again "if he didna ken her!" "I never saw her afore," was the inconsistent reply, for he had seen her only a few hours ago: "but I think she is a bonnie lassie."

The individual spoken of was indeed a dashing lass—tall, dark-haired, and dark-eyed. Christina knew all this; but when she heard her lover speak of her beauty, she felt something like a cold damp at her heart—an involuntary feeling for which she could not account, and the smile of happiness, which hitherto had brightened her countenance, forsook it for a season. Perhaps her lover discovered the change, and what had caused it; for he endeavoured to obliterate both by increased care and kindness. Her heart was not made for suspicion, and before they reached her father's door, her confidence—if it had ever been shaken—was perfectly restored. To the threshold of that door he accompanied her; and, after shaking her by the hand, and holding it for a few seconds gently pressed in his own, he bade her good night, and left her to dream of him and happiness.

During the whole of the next day she did not see him. This naturally created some alarm, but her heart was fruitful in forming excuses for his absence. At last evening came, but with it came not her lover, as was his wont. What could she do? Propriety forbade that she should ask an explanation. After a restless night, morning dawned—it passed away, and still she saw him not, though she learned that he had been out late last night, and even heard herself censured as the cause. This information fell heavy on her heart; still hope was not extinct, and throughout the day she tried to comfort herself with the idea, that something unexpected had prevented him from seeing her. In the evening of the second day, after finishing her task, she walked out, not perhaps without the expectation of seeing him. She did see him, but what words can describe the hopeless and dreary feeling which settled over her at the sight! He, too, had walked out, though apparently not for the purpose of seeing her. With him walked the very woman about whom he had inquired on the road two evenings ago—whom Christina had characterised as "the bonniest lass about the Nethertown." They paid no attention to her—they did not even see her. Her situation, however, gave her an opportunity of marking them too accurately for her own peace. She saw his eye distinctly, and it seemed to beam with all that tenderness which it was wont to express when turned upon herself. She saw him smile, and his smile appeared the same as that which had long been the light of her eyes—she heard him speak, and in his voice she fancied she could trace those endearing accents which had so often lulled her into utter forgetfulness of everything else— she saw and heard all this, and she was miserable. The scene was too painful to be long endured. Her visions had vanished, and in hopeless dejection she hurried back to her home, and threw herself upon her bed, to hide in obscurity her heart's despair.

In justice to the other, we must now notice the circumstances which produced the scene narrated above, for as yet his error was owing to levity and thoughtlessness, rather than to infidelity. The day after the Fair, he was so busy at the shop that it was not till evening he could find leisure to see her who anxiously awaited his coming; and when he did walk out with this intention, before he had proceeded many steps, he met the dark-eyed dashing Jeanie Muir. She thanked him, with a host of smiles and blandishments, for the service he had rendered her on the preceding day, and he could not do less than listen. She was fair, and forward as she was fair. He had a sort of natural gallantry, which made him desirous to please; and they stood together till, thinking it too late to follow out his first purpose, he abandoned it for the night, without once thinking of the anxiety which his absence might occasion to one who so tenderly loved him. On the following evening, as he left the shop, he again met Jeanie. She felt proud of his acquaintance; and from a wish, no doubt to make the most of it, she had again thrown herself in his way. She was going she said to take a walk, and asked him, in a half laughing way, if he would not accompany her 1 He assented, and chance brought them where their looks and words were as daggers to the heart of one who was but ill-prepared for such a scene.

He saw Christina, however, as she was hurrying from a sight which she could no longer endure. Conscience rebuked him for his levity ; and, as soon as he could conveniently get away from the other, he hastened to join her. Even then she did not refuse to see him; but, believing, as she did, that his affections were estranged, how could she receive his attentions. She tried to summon a smile to her countenance, but tears came instead; and, to conceal them, she turned away her face. She attempted to speak, but her voice was broken, and her words unconnected. In spite of all her efforts, he saw she was changed; and, conscience-stricken, he left her without a word. From this night Christina was visibly altered, though she strove, with all a woman's wiles, to hide the change. When others were present, she still attempted to speak and laugh, and appear as cheerful as she had been before. But the veil was too thin to deceive even a superficial observer.

Ill may a sad heart forge a merry face,
Nor hath constrained laughter any grace.

Her words flowed not from her heart as they were wont, and her laugh was forced and unnatural. Instead of walking out when her work was done, she would sit lonely by the fire, twisting and untwisting a bit of straw; or she would take down her hair, and while it hung loosely about her face, with her scissors clip the pieces of paper which held it into strange and fantastic shapes, and then put them into the fire one by one, and watch them as they blazed. During these reveries, if she was spoken to by any one, her name had always to be repeated oftener than once before she could be restored to consciousness.

This alteration in her manner did not pass without remark. The gossips, however, only attributed it to one of those casual coolnesses which are so frequent among lovers, and from which even the fondest and most faithful are seldom wholly exempt. But in a short time her mother became anxious for her health ; and thinking that too close an application to her work might have brought on lowness of spirits, she earnestly urged her to take a jaunt and see her friends. With her mother's wishes she readily complied, and was absent for two days, but returned without any sign of having brought along with her a lighter heart. It was rather late in the evening before she reached home; and the next morning, as she was returning from the well with water, some young people from the houses which she passed stopped her to inquire the news of her journey. One of them noticed the late hour of her arrival, and asked if she came without company. She averred that she did; but he pretended to disbelieve her, and said, that "Jamie Dixon had not been seen last night till after her return." When the name of her former lover was mentioned, she tried to smile, but the paleness of ashes was on her lip—it quivered —the blood forsook her cheek, and she fell apparently lifeless at their feet! Was she gone? No: a faint breathing told she was not dead. They raised her up, and sprinkled water over her deathlike forehead, and into the palms of her hands, and gradually restored her to consciousness. But the shock she had received was too violent to be immediately got over; and it was not till after she had been confined to bed some time, that she was able to resume her usual occupations.

Here we must once more advert-to her now faithless lover. Petted by what he was pleased to think her coldness, and pained by his own reflections, but still disposed to shift the blame from himself, he hastened back to the very individual who had been the cause of all. While with her, his manner was uneasy; he appeared, as he deserved to be, unhappy ; and by either real or well affected concern for his uneasiness, she succeeded in drawing from him an account of what had happened. She felt proud of the confidence he had thus reposed in her; and she professed so much friendship for him, and seemed to sympathise with him in such a way as to induce him again to seek consolation, or at least court forgetfulness, in her company. Had he been left to himself, affection would have soon returned to assert its sway, for his heart was neither callous nor corrupt. But the time was critical, and in the freshness of his pique she acquired an influence over him which she was perfectly willing to exercise for her own advantage. Facility on the one hand, and rashness on the other, were his principal errors. He received a letter from an old shop-mate in Edinburgh, informing him of an opening for him there, with the prospect of high wages. This information was immediately communicated to his newly-acquired friend. Art and intrigue are practised in cottages as well as courts, and there is a rivalry among women when their affections are engaged, which, though less obvious, is as earnestly pursued as the more open contentions of men. She urged him to embrace the offer, and, as an inducement, stated that she had .determined to go there herself in quest of service. To wean him from any hankerings which he might have for the place, or any of its inhabitants, she also repeated some tattle which she had heard about a lad who was said to "be after his auld sweetheart," and who was supposed to be gone with her to see her friends. The scheme succeeded; and, on the night on which Christina returned from her jaunt, the two were together concerting measures for taking their departure on the following day. Both of them, accordingly, left the place early next morning, and as they had kept their intention secret till they were ready to set off, their departure was not generally known in the Nethertown till after Christina had swooned.

After this, James Dixon never returned to the Nethertown. Had he stayed there a week longer, his feelings, probably, would have flowed back to their old channel; but rash and reckless of consequences, he had exchanged the rural quiet of a country life for the confusion of a crowded city, and the Nethertown and all it contained, if not forgotten, might be for a time so confounded with other images as to leave but a faint impression on his mind. It is, moreover, questionable if he knew the extent of the misery he had occasioned till it was too late to remedy it; for if subsequent accounts were true, in six months after going to Edinburgh, he married Jeanie Muir. But this, it is believed, was never told to the victim of his former attachment.

It is painful to trace the progress of disappointment from the first shade of paleness which exhibits itself on the countenance, through all its future stages,—languor, weariness, and disease,—till it ends in the darkness of death. But the Fate of the Fairest must be told ; and if it should be instrumental in teaching the virtue of constancy to one inconstant lover, or in saving one gentle heart among the softer sex from the pang which its opposite might occasion, the writer will account himself amply rewarded.

When hut partially recovered, Christina resumed her work, and was as diligent as she had been before j but she never regained her former cheerfulness. By degrees, she began to absent herself almost entirely from company, always indicating a wish to be alone. Her colour, too, it was remarked, had never been what it was previous to her sudden illness, but no one appeared to entertain any apprehensions for her perfect recovery, and the matrons merely observed, that "Christina was surely growin' guid noo, for they never saw her at the Green."

Time stays not his flight for the happy or the unhappy, though to the latter he may seem to linger; while the former may fancy him too swift. The fields had exchanged their rich green for "the hues of coming ripeness," when Christina began to complain of weariness after her day's work; but still she spoke not of pain, or any fixed disorder. Harvest came, and she went forth with the reapers, in the expectation that the fresh air and exercise would he beneficial to her. But the canker-worm was at her heart, and neither air nor exercise could scare it away. It was truly touching to see her sit, during the intervals of rest, with her features composed into the deepest melancholy, while peals of laughter were ringing around her; and it was still more touching to see her sometimes attempt to laugh at—she knew not what. Her strength was unequal to the task, and, after a trial of two or three days, another took her place, and she returned to her former employment.

The harvest season passed over; the corn was secured from coming winter; the sombre hues of autumn were on the naked fields, and the trees had begun to shed their sere leaves at the summons of the blast.

A little after daybreak, the east appeared overspread with clouds—

Which, streak'd with dusky red, portend
The day shall have a stormy end.

They vanished before sunrise, and for two hours after the morning continued calm and beautiful. It was the Sabbath, and Christina was preparing herself for church ; her friends would have dissuaded her from going out in her infirm state of health, but she wished to go, and they consented. Before the service was concluded, sleet and rain fell, and the wind blew keenly from the south-east. In returning, she got slightly wet, and almost immediately on reaching home complained of unusual weariness, headache, and oppression of the breast. Pain in her side was the next alarming symptom. Medical assistance was called in, and succeeded in affording a temporary relief, but there was no permanent improvement: her strength had departed, and no power of art could bring it back. Her medical adviser now recommended walking in the open air when the weather was mild, and cheerful company when it was not. With these directions she endeavoured to comply ; but her weakness had increased so much, that her walks in general terminated at the house of the sewing-mistress, in whose words let what remains of her story be told.

"When she came to see me," said this kind-hearted individual, "her conversation was always of a solemn and impressive nature—death, and the things of another world, were the subjects upon which it most frequently turned; but not a word did she speak of her faithless lover, nor did she ever make the slightest illusion to her own particular case. I frequently attempted to draw her attention to passing events, and to amuse her by telling cheerful stories; but all was in vain. Though she appeared willing to listen, her mind soon wandered from the subject; and when I asked her opinion, I often found that she had forgotten, or rather never heard, what I had been saying. At last it occurred to me, that if she could be brought to disclose the story of her ill-requited affection, it might relieve her sinking spirits, and even yet give her a chance of recovering. With this idea in my head, I watched for an opportunity to lead her on to unbosom herself, without importuning her with questions.

"One day, after we had been speaking of the felicity of a future state, I remarked that love—overflowing love—would be one of the principal sources of happiness in heaven: love to God, and love to each other—a love which could neither be interrupted by accidents, nor unreturned.  At these words, a faint red once more tinged her pale cheek, she sighed deeply, and I almost trembled to proceed; yet the time seemed favourable for my purpose, and I went on to say, that the little unalloyed happiness we could enjoy here would be still Jess, were it not for those sympathies and affections which Heaven, in mercy, had vouchsafed us—the love of friends, sisters, brothers, parents, children, and the yet more tender ties by which young hearts are linked together. I remarked farther, that those affections from which we derived our purest enjoyments were, from unavoidable circumstances—the un-worthiness of their objects, and the imperfections of our fallen nature—sometimes turned into bitterness, and made the means of poisoning the fountain which they were intended to purify; but where this was the case, it was our duty to forget the past is speedily as possible, and in future be more careful to fix them only on such objects as might be worthy of our regard.

"As I spoke, I purposely avoided looking at her, lest she should suspect my intention; but as I concluded, I looked her full in the face, and I shall never forget the appearance which she at that moment presented. A bright hectic burned on her cheek; her eye—dry, feverish, and ' full of fearful meaning,'— was fixed on my countenance, and her hands were clasped across her bosom. She did not attempt to speak for some minutes, and fear made me silent also; for I recollected the soene which had followed the rash mention of her lover's name when she was much stronger than now, and apprehensive for the same consequences, I would have given worlds to recall my words. She rose from her seat, and made an attempt at utterance, but her emotion was still too strong, and her voice died away in a broken murmur. After heaving a deep sigh, she was able to articulate,—' Oh,' said she, ' I would tell you a secret, which you already know—but I know not how it is, I cannot speak.' I begged her to compose herself, and sit down, and when she was better, I would be happy to listen to whatever she had to impart. She sat down accordingly, and tried to calm her feelings and collect herself for the task, but soon expressed a wish to go home, saying that she was too much agitated to tell her story distinctly. To this I did not object, and when she rose to depart, after looking earnestly at me for a short time, as if to ascertain the extent of what I felt on her account, she pressed my hand' in her own—thin and shadowy —and said she would return to-morrow.

"When she returned, the melancholy serenity of her countenance was restored. She was pale—paler than I had ever seen her before—but there was no agitation in her manner, and her eye, though it did not sparkle with health, beamed with a pure seraphic brightness, as if it looked far beyond the mists of time. She was herself the first to allude to the subject. With the most perfect composure, she told her whole story from first to last—from the time she met her faithless lover at the Green, to their last parting. She said she had often tried to discover what it was that made him so dear to her, and had as often fancied that it was merely his kindness and his good humour which she admired, but that she never knew her own heart till she was shocked with the idea of being forsaken.

"When she concluded, I said she should try to think no more of him, or if that were impossible, that it were better to despise, or even hate him, than thus to wear out her existence in useless regret and unavailing sorrow.

"'Oh, no !' she replied. 'I do not think of him now as a lover—that is past—but I can neither despise nor hate him; I could not do that even in the bitterest moments of disappointment—I love him still! And oh!' she continued, in an excited tone, 'oh if I could but meet him in heaven, this—this would more than reward me for all I have suffered on his account!'

"I was so struck with this instance of pure and forgiving affection filling the warm heart of the apparently dying girl, that it was some time before I could answer her, I applauded her constancy, and that gentleness of heart which sought no revenge—what else could I do?—and tried to flatter her once more with hopes of recovery, telling her of others who had been weaker than she was yet, and who, nevertheless, had lived to a healthy old age; but her only answer was a monrnful smile. ,

"From this time forward, though the process of decay went on, her spirits seemed to be relieved of a burden. Gradually and gently she faded day by day; but death made his approaches in loveliness, not in terror. As she drew nearer her end, her countenance assumed an expression of tranquil and almost unearthly beauty; and her eye, which retained its lustre to the last, seemed to glow with heavenly light. Sallowness and gloom were not among the symptoms of dissolution; and on the evening before she died, one would have thought that she might melt into the essence of a spirit without suffering a single pang. On the following morning, which was the market day, while her former companions were preparing themselves to visit those scenes which she had seen along with them but one short year before, she closed her eyes in a gentle slumber, and so tranquil were her last moments, and so calm and bright was her countenance even after the spirit had fled, that it was with some difficulty those who watched could tell she was dead."

At the Nethertown, and on the Green, she was soon forgotten by all save a few; and her grave has already sunk nearly to a level with the grassy heaps which surround it. I have stood over that grave; and while memory wandered back into the past, and pondered on the brief career of her whose affections "blighted her life's bloom," the words of a great delineator of the human heart involuntarily occurred to my recollection,—"A broken heart is a distemper which kills many more than is generally imagined, and would have a .fair title to a place in the bill of mortality, did it not differ in one instance from all other diseases, namely, that no physician can cure it."

Such was the fate of artless maid,
Sweet flow'ret of the rural shade!


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