O happy, happy holyday!
Though angry winter frown,
When friends, residing far away,
In country or in town,
Once more may meet around the hearth
Where all their early joys had hirth.
Among the country people of Scotland the custom of
visiting their friends on Hanselmonday, like many other usages of the
olden time, is fast wearing out; yet it is still a day towards
which anticipation is turned, and I doubt not but to many the very
mention of its name will bring back pleasing recollections of happy
hours spent in the humble abodes of hardy industry, and friendly
greetings, and glances of affection which left a long-living impression
behind them. Tales, too, and reminiscences of joy or woe are inseparably
connected with that day in the memories of many a humble individual. The
beginning of a deep-rooted and lasting affection—the long sought and
eagerly expected confession of a mutual passion—the first sight of a
future husband or wife—the meeting of relations who had never met
before—the solemn interview after death had made its inroad among early
acquaintances — the first visit to a paternal home after man's last
enemy had thinned it of its blessings,—these, and many other incidents,
of common occurrence at this season of the year, have stamped
Hanselmonday in deep and enduring characters on many a heart. "I did not
see him after my father's death till Hanselmonday;"—"It was on
Hanselmonday that I first met Peggy;"—"Mary and me went to her father's,
for the first time, on a Hanselmonday;" —"It was three weeks before
Hanselmonday when Johnnie was born;"—these, and many more of the same
kind, are familiar words among the sons and daughters of "rustic toil;"
and what a host of pleasing or painful recollections do they carry along
with them !
Many years ago my father's family came to reside
within a moderate distance of a small village, where lived an uncle whom
I had never seen. Having resolved to pay him a visit on Hanselmonday, I
set off early on Saturday morning, and, by dint of hard travelling,
reached my destination a little after mid-day.
My uncle's family consisted of his wife, an only
daughter, and an unmarried sister, familiarly known by the appellation
of "Aunty Eppie." They all greeted me with a warmth which I had scarcely
expected; but if one welcomed me more cordially than another it was my
cousin Rose, an interesting girl about my own age, which then did not
exceed eighteen. Having never known any relation save her parents and
her aunt, she seemed to look upon me as an accession to the number of
her friends and her stock of happiness. As I was to stay a week the
elder females insisted that I should "rest myself" for the remainder of
the day, but Hose would by no means agree to this. In the afternoon she
led me out to see her little garden, —a small patch of ground
overstocked with flowers of every description.
I was never an enthusiastic admirer of flowers. From
a very early period my attention had been too exclusively engaged by
other concerns to admit of its being thus divided. To look upon them in
those repositories of art where they have been congregated by man, or to
see them in wild luxuriance "bloom along the vale," or by the stream, or
on the hill, without knowing any thing of their properties, or even
their names,—was always enough, for me. But my pretty cousin was a lover
of flowers, and a cultivator of them in her own way, and had, moreover,
a smattering of botany. She spent many of her leisure hours in
cultivating her little parterre, and on this occasion apparently took
great delight in exhibiting her floral treasures. In return, I tried to
learn the names of her favourites—extolled the beauties of some which I
had neither seen nor before heard of—admired the neat and orderly
appearance of her garden—racked my memory for all the professional slang
I had ever heard used by gardeners and amateurs; and, in short, praised
the whole with an enthusiasm which must have been very extravagant. To
this senseless rhodomontade she listened with apparent satisfaction,
occasionally giving me the history of several of her "mute friends," ind
regretting that the season did not permit me to see them in all their
Among them were some pinks and polyanthuses, which,
had been the gifts of two female friends, Mary Auburn and Peggy Simpson.
But the plant upon which she seemed to set the greatest value, and
bestow most care, was a tuft of carnations which had been given her by a
journeyman gardener called George Robertson, at that time residing at
Corolla Castle, a gentleman's seat in the immediate neighbourhood. Of
this individual, Rose gave me to understand that he was " reckoned very
clever by the people about—-he knew a great deal about flowers, and was
better acquainted with his trade than the master gardener—so the folk
said." But she "knew very little of him—scarcely any thing at all; for
though he sometimes came owre on an e'enin' to see her father, she had
seldom spoken to him." This homily on friends and flowers was concluded
by pulling away some weeds about the size of pins from the carnations,
and carefully drawing the earth up to their roots,—all which appeared to
me superfluous labour.
On the following day, which was the Sabbath, we went
to church. She took my arm as we set out, and for half the distance
appeared perfectly delighted with my company; and, if truth must be
told, I was as well pleased with her as she seemed to be with me. But
unfortunately for our conversation, three young fellows overtook and
passed us on the road. Rose looked after them wistfully till they were
at some distance, sighed two or three times, and then became unusually
silent. For the remainder of the road, and during the service, she
appeared distracted and thoughtful; but as we were coming out of the
church, a person, whom I recognised as one of those who had passed us,
spoke to her. I did not hear his words; but, in answering him, I heard
her say, "He is my cousin." A few more words passed between them in a
sort of half whispering tone, after which she again took my arm. On the
road home, her liveliness returned, and our mutual happiness was
restored. Had I been possessed at the time of only a tolerable knowledge
of the workings and wanderings of the young heart, it is probable these
little incidents might have given me feelings very different from those
with which I was then occupied; but my knowledge was, like the knowledge
of eighteen, neither extensive nor deep, and they gave me no uneasiness.
With the morrow came Hanselmonday. My uncle, or
rather his wife, kept a small shop for supplying the neighbourhood with
grocery and other wares of a promiscuous description. In the course of
the afternoon, I sauntered into it, and being a holiday, I found him
attending it in person. "When I entered, he was in the act of almost
forcing a quantity of cheese and a small sum of money upon a rather
elderly and poor, but decent-looking woman.
"Na, na," said she, in answer to his pressing, "I hae
nae right to appear like ither folk at ither folk's expense; a
throughbearin is a' I maun look for; an' if that be granted, I hae great
reason to be thankfu'."
"Hout! havering body!" was the good-natured reply, "ye'll
get a throughbearin; but od, woman, ye're aye wurkin to our guidwife,
an' it's only pride that winna let ye tak payment!" With these words he
thrust a home-made cheese, and a small sum of money, into her lap.,
"Deed, sir, I dinna ken what to think o' ye noo!"
ejaculated the good woman; "at this rate, I'll no win out o' your debt
as lang as I live."
"The woman's gaen clean crazed, I declare!" said the
other, "to stand there an' ca' me ' sir!' as if I were either a
knave or a knight; an' crack about debt, as if I were ane o' her
creditors. If we're a' spared health we'll see ye gin supper-time, an'
if there's onything owre after that, we can settle about thae accounts
the morn. But, Marion, I maun e'en flyte wi' ye for that ill-faur'd
custom ye hae o' mockin' little folk wi' great names—ca'in them ' sirs,'
an' ' masters,' an' a' that. The sorrow confound ye if ever ye ca' me
ought but ' David' after this."
"Ah, David!" I could hear her say, as she was going
away, "we hae but few men like you. Though ye were to gie awa the half
o' yer substance, ye wad aye mak it appear that ye was giein naething. .
I can mak ye nae return for a' your kindness to me; but may the blessing
o' the widow rest on your head, an' the head o' your bairn, an' your
bairn's bairns, to the latest generation."
When she was gone, "That's Marion Simpson," said my
uncle: "I was just giein her something, when ye cam in, to help her to
appear like her neighbours when we a' gae to see her the nicht At her
husband's death, she was left wi' twa sma bairns; an' though she has had
a sair struggle wi' the warld, she's aye been honest, an' provided for
hersei' an' them wi' her ain industry. They'll baith be a comfort to her
yet, I hope: the lassie is sae already; but her son—God bless him—wha
was as weel behaved a callant as ever breathed, had the misfortune to
engage wi' the laird o' Rummlegairy ; and as his life was made perfectly
miserable, in a fit of despair he ran aff to the sea. But I scarcely
think he can like the wild life o' a sailor; and I hope he'll come hame
after a', and be a blessing to his mother in her auld age."
In this hope, I, as a matter of course, participated,
and made some half boyish observation about the pleasure it must give
him thus to deserve and receive the blessing of the widow.
"I've wrought hard," said he, "for the little that I
hae; and, as auld folk maun aye be giein advice to young anes, ye maun
listen to me a wee. Tak gude care o' ony siller ye may get; an' if ye
hae a shilling to spare, never try to imitate the rich, nor even the
poor, in their dinners an' their dresses, their drinkings an' their
vanities;—lay it by: it may be of mair use to you than a' your kin. And
when you can fairly manage your ain ends, if ye can help an honest man
or woman in their straits and struggles wi' poverty, never tie your
purse-strings, nor turn a deaf ear to the complaints of those that are
in distress: try to relieve them if ye can; and if your heart is what I
wad hae it to be, ye'll derive mair pleasure from this than from
counting over useless thousands."
The evening of Hanselmonday was one of general
festivity. At first, the neighbours, with their families, to the number
of a dozen, assembled in my uncle's house. Here they were plentifully
served with bread and cheese, and good ale was handed round to "synd
it doun," as they themselves phrased it. After this, a glass was
offered to each, and the lasses were requested to sing; to which, after
the usual show of reluctance, they consented. In reflecting on the
subject since, I have often thought that, from the songs they selected,
which were generally those they could sing best, a shrewd guess might
have been made at the feelings of the respective singers.
There was one blue-eyed, mild, and rather melancholy
looking girl, who was prevailed upon, with some difficulty, to
contribute her share. This was Mary Auburn. She sang a mournful ballad,
which told of disappointed affection, and desponding constancy. I had no
skill in music, and never in my life knew one tune from another; but the
low mellow voice of that girl thrilled my very heart. Hers was that sort
of singing which a deep sympathy with the words of the poet, drawn from
experience, and assisted by a voice naturally musical, alone can
produce. The following are some verses of the song which I still
"With a face falsely smiling, while sad is my heart,
Among the gay circle I sit;
When the laugh rings around me, I suddenly start,
And laugh, though I cannot forget!
"Ah! think not that frowns were the cause of my
By smiles my fond heart was undone;
I trusted to kindness, and now I must languish,
Since far, far away he has gone!
"He knew not the thoughts that around him were
As lonely I stray'd by the burn;
Nor knew that, when morning was blythsomely shining,
I wish'd for the e'enin's return.
"The gloaming aft brought him again to my sight,
The past fleeting hour to beguile;
And Love stole my heart, in his kindly "good night,"
As he parted from me with a smile.
"Though he breathed not the accents of love in my ear—
Yet now, when I fondly recall
His tones and his glances, the gathering tear
In my eye glistens, ready to fall.
"Those tones aye fu' tender—that look aye fu' kind—
Lang, lang in my bosom shall lie:
Though he left me nae promise nor token behind,
First love with life only can die! "
As the fair singer breathed forth her soul in these
simple verses, her voice faltered, and something very like a tear did
glisten in her eye. I was struck by the girl's agitation. Could it
be, that some deep-rooted attachment, formed and felt, but never
confessed, such as often steals unperceived over the morning of
life—some tender tie, which, in the flush and fulness of early feeling,
had bound her to one by whom she was forgotte'n—some recollection of the
past, cherished in silence, and changed into gloom by the hopeless
aspect of the future,—was at the time withering her heart, and drying up
the fountain of her enjoyment ?
Widely different was the strain sung by Peggy
Simpson,—a fair-haired, light-hearted, laughing damsel of fourteen, and
as widely different was her manner of singing it. Joy seemed to dance in
every tone of her voice, and it was with difficulty she could suppress a
laugh at the close of every line, as she sung—
Let the silly an' love-sick in silence draw nigh;
Nae laddie hae I, an' the less do I care,
Sin' I aftener langh, and seldomer sigh,
Than lasses wi' plenty o' lads,.an' to spare.
Thus she went on with a light-hearted and humorous
strain, which seemed in a great measure to obliterate from the minds of
her hearers the effects produced by the former singer. In her, it was
evident that the ruling passion of youth was scarcely, if at all
developed. To the notice and admiration of the other sex she might have,
and no doubt had, a liking; but she had not yet arrived at that period
when love becomes the engrossing subject of every thought—when the
little pleasures, childish passions, and personal considerations of the
girl, are exchanged for another and a dearer self—for that absorbing and
disinterested feeling which characterises a woman's first affection. Of
love she had heard, and of love perhaps she thought; but it was only as
another name for happiness: of its solitary musings—its tormenting
jealousies, and needless alarms,—she knew nothing; and she could laugh
and sing of it with a face full of glee, and a heart which did not belie
This scene of harmony and mirth was interrupted by
one of the seniors of the company addressing my uncle.
"Noo, Mr. Pennyworth," said he, " when we hae a'
partaken o' your guid choor, ye maun just honour us by gaun to see what
my Luckie has provided for the haddin' o' Hansel-monday."
"Hout! awa, man, wi' your high names!" was the reply:
"keep your mock-masterships for anither day. I've aye heen plain David !
sae am I yet. But, nae doubt, we maun gae an' tak vengeance on your
guidwife's kebbuck an' her bottle; an' sae I think, if the company's
agreeable, we had better commence the attack."
The business of the night was perfectly understood,
and this proposal was responded to in the same strain of good humour in
which it had been made. We went through the whole of the houses—eating
and drinking, singing songs and telling stories in each. On reaching the
abode of the widow who had benefited by my uncle's hounty, it was
gratifying to see the look of satisfaction with which she placed her
little store before her guests.
"Dear me, Marion, but matters are mendin wi' you,"
said one of them: "there's a hale kebbuck, I declare, an' no a bit heel,
as I've seen ye hae."
"Ay, ay, lad, I'm able to get a hale kebbuck noo,"
was Marion's answer: "thanks be to Him wha sends us a' guid gifts, and
His blessin' on some folk no far bye." As she spoke, she cast an arch
look at her benefactor, and seemed on the point of disclosing the scene
which had occurred at the little shop. But he shook his clenched fist,
and she was silent.
From the manner in which this crusade of eating and
drinking was conducted, it was evident that my uncle was regarded with a
sort of respectful deference. He had, by dint of industry, acquired a
little money, and in this, lay the secret of his superiority. Nor was he
altogether ignorant of the power with which his wealth had invested him,
though he did not choose to display it. His constant endeavour was to
conceal his power, and for this very reason, perhaps, he possessed it in
"The daft days" were not yet done. As Monday night
had been given to what might be called public, so Tuesday night, was to
be devoted to domestic festivity. But upon this occasion the guests were
more select] only Mary Auburn and her brother, and George Robertson were
Up to this period I had enjoyed a principal share of
Rose's attention, but now I was destined to meet a sad reverse. No
sooner did the gardener arrive, than she entirely forgot me. It has been
observed that "lover's eyes are sharp to see:" perhaps I had got enough
of the disease to give me something of that quick perception which is
meant by this phrase; for I soon became a more acute observer than I had
ever been before, and more prompt at drawing inferences. I began to
perceive that George Robertson was a stronger magnet to Rose's thoughts
than I had ever been. She directed the whole of her discourse to him,
and her eye was restless and uneasy when gazing on any other object. He
possessed considerable liveliness of conversation, which her presence
tended greatly to increase; and she was always the first to laugh at his
sallies, though I, with less candour than ill-nature thought them very
stupid. To the compliments which he occasionally bestowed on her she
made no verbal reply; but I observed with mortification that they seldom
failed to heighten the natural glow of her countenance, to impart a more
fascinating lustre to her eye, and call into play a thousand nameless
blandishments, which too plainly indicated the impression they had made
on her mind.
A circumstance, however, occurred, which might have
served to give me some satisfaction, though I do not recollect that it
did so. Mary Auburn at last came in for a share of the gardener's
attention. My uncle had been jesting her about giving him an invitation
to her marriage, and she, to evade his good-humoured importunity,
observed with a smile—the first I had seen on her face—"that she was
going to the garret; for she wad never be married." The gardener
overheard her words, and gallantly took up the subject.
"The garret!" said he, with well-affected
astonishment; "na, na—nae garrets! I'll be caution for ye in ony sum no
exceeding a Scots bawbee, that thae bonny een, that snawy neck, an' fair
face o' yours, whilk ye spoil by haddin' down your head, hae gotten ye
already mair than half-a-dozcn wooers, and among them, if ye wale weel,
ye may get a guid husband ony day in a' the year."
Her only answer to this raillery was a sigh.
"But may I gang on crutches a' the neist owk," he
continued, looking at her earnestly, "if I wad hae you for a wife,
though I could get you wi' a word; for I'm certain I could neither work
nor sleep if ye were mine, but look at ye a' day, an' caress ye a'
At this sally we all laughed except Rose—an unwonted
thoughtfulness overspread her countenance, and for the next half-hour
she spoke but little, and did not laugh at all.
The horticulturist appeared perfectly aware of this
sudden change in her manner, for he again exerted himself, with even
more than his former assiduity, and again all his best sayings were
exclusively addressed to her. For a time she answered him in a quiet
tone, very unlike the clear and joyous accents of her natural voice, and
without looking at him when she spoke. But her resolution, whatever it
was, could not hold out against his good-humoured attention. At first
her countenance was lighted up with a faint and half-reluctant smile—
then she looked at him, then she laughed, and then her eye again grew
bright in the reflection of his, a glow of satisfaction suffused her
cheek, and she appeared supremely happy.
"But those that are true lovers run into strange
capers." The company began to speak of breaking up, and hero one of
those difficulties occurred which, though in themselves nothing, often
perplex mortals sadly. Mary's brother had been unable to come; and as
the night was dark, and she had nearly half a mile to go, it was
indispensable that some one should escort her home. She was an
interesting girl, in every respect as well deserving of attention as
Rose, and I felt somewhat inclined to offer my services. But I was then
little accustomed to the society of young women, rather bashful, and
withal, at the time, rather discontented; so I. said not a word. My
uncle was the first to start up and offer to be her conductor himself.
But he had caught a slight cold, and my aunts would by no means hear of
his going out. Rose, who was now all glee and gladness, was the next to
take up the matter. "She would run," she said, "for Andrew Outerlands;"
and she did run—but Andrew had gone to see his brother, and was not
expected home till to-morrow. As she told' this, she looked at me in
evident expectation that I would volunteer. But by this time I had some
sort of a presentiment of where matters would end, and with unmannerly
obstinacy I still forbore. Through the whole of this dilemma Mary had
been protesting that she could go home herself, and begging them not to
trouble themselves; but this she would not be permitted to do. After a
considerable pause, my aunt put in her word.
"What are ye a' makin' sic a wark about?" said she, "canna
G-eordie there, when he's sic a favourite wi' a' the lasses, gang an'
see her safe hame ?"
At these words Rose changed colour almost as suddenly
as the pigeon's neck changes its hue when the rays of light strike it in
a new direction. This was the arrangement she had been labouring to
avert, but the consummation of her fears had at last come upon her.
Still, however, she affected to be cheerful, and tried to laugh—nor were
her resources yet at an end.
"It's sae far out o' his road," she said, "and sae
far for him to come back when he has to work hard next day; Tarn Brown,
I'm sure, will be glad o' an opportunity to see Mary; I'll run and tell
him, if he's no in his bed." She made her promise good, but to her
disappointment Tarn was absent, and supposed to be with his sweetheart.
This was her last resource. The man of carnations and cabbage, after a
struggle between what appeared to be his inclination and his duty as a
gallant, was forced to obey the latter; and after the usual "good
nights," and being "wished weel hame'' by all and sundry, away he set
with his protegd It should have been noticed, that during the latter
part of the discussion he had become in a great measure passive, and
spoke but little, so that had it hot been for that "index to the heart,"
his countenance, I should have supposed he did not dislike the part
assigned him. But Rose was latterly too much taken up with her own
thoughts to pay any attention to this.
On the following day, Rose was somewhat
changed. On coming in' from the yard with some vegetables for the
dinner, she spoke of "delving up" the violets she had got from Mary
Auburn; and the carnations, she "didna think they , would flower," and
wished she knew where to get something better to put in their place. Her
buoyant spirits were gone: she went about the affairs of the house, and
scarcely noticed any one—even I had some difficulty in getting a word
from her. But what surprised me most was, that no one except myself
seemed to notice the alteration.
That I was somewhat chagrined by the discovery I had
made the previous night, will be easily believed, and at first I had
almost determined to show that I cared nothing about her. But this
determination did not hold long. Since I could not shine in her favour
as the cynosure, I thought it might be best to come in for a secondary
share, by endeavouring to be of some service to her. Here I had some
difficulties and delicacies to encounter; but after reflecting on the
matter, I resolved to commence by communicating my suspicions to her
aunt, and taking her advice as to what it would be best to do, in order
to bring the whole to a happy conclusion.
I, accordingly, with an impudence for which I cannot
account, and to which I could never either before or since summon any
thing similar, told her the whole story, heightened by all the
observations and imaginations with which I then thought proper to crowd
It is impossible to describe my surprise when she
laughed heartily at my "delusions," as she called them.
"Na, na, laddie," said she, "ye ken little o' young
women yet. D'ye think a lass maun aye be in love wi' ilka ane she laughs
at, an' ilka ane she allows to speak nonsense to her Gude saufe
us! if that were the case, what a warld it would be ! The lasses wad
need a hantle mae hearts than ane to baud their love in; for there's no
a lass in a' the country-side but may laugh at fifty fules, an' let
fifty fallows she cares naething about crack havers to her in the course
o' her lifetime. Hech, sirs ! Na, na ! I'll warrant the lassie is as
deep in love wi' you as wi' Geordie, an' no ower the ankles wi' ony o'
ye!" Here she took another hearty laugh, in which, maugre my
disappointment and mortification, I was forced to join. "An' as to the
lassie's being dull an' thoughtfu'," she continued, "a body canna aye be
giggling an' laughing. I'm sure she cracked an' leugh as muckle
yestre'en as might weel ser' for a hale owk."
With this assurance I was forced to be satisfied.
Throughout this and the following day, Hose's
thoughtful disposition continued, though she made some efforts to
conquer it. At dinner she was desired to bring some milk; she obeyed
without speaking, and bringing an empty vessel, placed it on the table
with great care.
"The lassie's gaen gyte," said her mother, "it was
milk your father bade ye bring, an' no a toom dish!
"I'll wager my lug," said her aunt, "if her mind
wasna chasin' mice, it was rinnin' after a new mutch, or a braw frock,
or something o' that sort, that ye'll hae to gie her siller to get some
"Deed was't," said Rose, with a smile, which seemed
to shine through a mortifying sense of the blunder she had committed,
After it was dark, a gentle tap was heard at the
door; Rose answered it, and a short conversation in whispers ensued.
Rose speedily returned, and addressing her mother said— "Peggy Simpson
has been here, asking my assistance to shape a new gown. May I rin ower
for half an' hour?"
"Far be't fae me, lassie, ever to say no," was the
reply. "The widow an' the fatherless should aye be treated kindly. It
might hae been your ain turn to want your father instead o' hers; sae
e'en gang if ye like. But what for did the lassie no come in?" Without
taking time to answer this interrogatory, Rose was off in an instant,
and with a lighter step, and in better spirits, than she had exhibited
for several days.
I was in bed, but not sleeping, when she returned,
and I could hear her mother attempting to chide her for her protracted
stay. But on her naming over several little acts which she had done, she
was easily forgiven.
"Weel, weel, lassie," said her mother, "I'll never be
angry at ye for takin' the lesson ye've often heard me repeat—aye to be
kind an helpfu' to the poor, an' them that hae few helpers. But mind,
Rose, ye are my only bairn: your father likes you aye to be i' the house
at e'en; an' ye maun never stay out sae late again if ye can help it."
From this night Rose's sprightliness and loquacity
returned in even a greater degree than formerly. I found myself again
fully reinstated in her good graces; and her endeavours to amuse me were
unceasing. In the exuberance of her glee she even charged me with
dulness, and asked if I could not laugh and speak nonsense like her. The
overflowing of a happy heart was evident in almost everything she said
or did. The change was so remarkable that to account for it perfectly
puzzled me, till toward night, when I accidentally overheard that Rose
was not the only visitor at Mrs. Simpson's on the preceding evening.
This confirmed me in my own opinion; and somewhat picqued at the jeering
repulse which I had formerly met, I resolved again to mention the matter
to her aunt. But when an opportunity occurred she did not permit me to
break the subject, and saluted me with "Ye were thinkin' Rose was in
love," said she, "because she was dull yesterday. If that was the case
she's soon win ower her ill turn, as ye wad say. What think ye noo o'
your nonsense about love? I'm sure she can laugh the day as weel as ever
I would have said what I thought, but wanted
resolution. The opportunity and the night passed over, and on the morrow
at an early hour, after shaking of hands, and with hearty wishes for
each other's welfare, as John Bunyan saith, "I went on my way, and saw
them no more" for a twelvemonth.
If the reader will be pleased to direct his mind's
eye over the period of his past years, he will find the images which his
memory may retain so evanescent and unsatisfactory that I flatter myself
he will easily he induced to pardon me for passing over one of the
earth's entire revolutions without a single word.
The Hanselmonday returned, I renewed my visit, and
Rose, who was still uppermost in my thoughts, was the first object to
attract my attention. From the moment on which I saw her I lacked not a
subject on which to think. She was indeed sadly altered. Pale and
listless, the speaking lustre was gone from her eye, and her voice had
lost its clear and thrilling melody. No object of sight, or topics of
conversation, however uncommon or lively they might be, could attract
her notice. Or if she did listen with a momentary interest, or try to
speak, the effort appeared too painful to be sustained, and her mind
soon wandered back to its melancholy haunts. Her little garden, and her
flowers, seemed to be almost the only things on earth for which she
cared : there she would sometimes work though it was winter, and stand
and gaze upon its quiet occupants as if the world contained nought
beside. And while thus employed in "idle reverie," the blood would
occasionally rush to her cheek tempestuously, then slowly subside,
leaving it paler than before. Anon a faint glow would succeed, followed
by a deeper desertion. And when her spirits were exhausted and worn out
in this apparently mental struggle the whole would end in a lasting fit
of abstraction and melancholy silence.
Her parents complained of the lowness of her spirits,
and spoke of her being in ill health. Like other parents, whose
affections are centred in a single object, they alternately gave way to
apprehensions and hopes of her recovery; hut they never once seemed to
suspect that her heart could be in the least accessory to the melancholy
change. With me it was otherwise, and I found Aunty Eppie had adopted my
opinion, though she had never ventured to mention it to any one else.
I observed that she used some stratagems to get me by
myself, and when she had accomplished her purpose, "Laddie," said she,
"I'm fear'd ye guess'd ower true the last time ye were here; for, if I'm
no far cheated, that gardener chield has ta'en awa Rose's heart wi' him,
an' left the rest o' her here, poor thing! to wither like a geranium set
out-bye in winter. She's never been like hersel' since Whitsunday, when
he left the place. And yet, I ken na how it is, but I could never muster
courage to speak o't either to her father or her mither: it wad vex them
sae to think that their only Bairn wad tak' up wi' a fallow like
him—here the tae day, and wha kens whar the next."
Many plans were thought of, and much was repeated
which had been thought of before to no purpose, and we ended where we
began, without eliciting anything which could be of the least service;
only we both agreed that as her parents could do nothing, it was best to
keep the secret from them still.
On this occasion there was no Hanselmonday
festivities at my uncle's ; fear and anxiety prevailed where mirth and
good cheer were wont to preside. But the widow and her daughter were
still fresh in my memory ; the scene in the little shop, a twelvemonth
before, had prepossessed me in their favour, and I could not leave the
place without seeing them. I accordingly paid them a visit, and the
conversation, naturally enough, turned upon Rose, her indisposition, and
the probable cause of it. With this I found them much better acquainted
than I had been prepared to expect; and from them I learned that George
Robertson had left Corolla Castle for the Edinburgh nurseries, a
practice not uncommon among young gardeners. After being there for a few
days, he was offered an advantageous situation in Wales, which he at
once accepted for a year. These circumstances, after his arrival in
Wales, he narrated in a letter to James Wilson, another of the gardeners
at the Castle, with whom he had been on very intimate terms, and who was
also a great favourite with Marion. The letter, after inquiring for
Rose, stated that he had anxiously wished an interview with her, on the
night previous to his leaving the Castle, as he had something of
importance to communicate; and that he had gone over to buy some
articles which he did not need, in the hope' of being able to see her
for a few minutes by herself. But there was such a flow of mirth in her
manners, and contrary to his expectation, she misunderstood his hints so
often, seemed to avoid being alone with him with so much care, and had
so many jests about his "going to Edinburgh to get a wife," and "the
worthlessness of the country lasses," that his resolution entirely
failed him, and he went home, with feelings of the most painful
disappointment, to spend his last night in her neighbourhood in a state
of sleepless agitation. All this, Jamie Wilson had been enjoined to keep
a perfect secret; and the letter concluded by desiring him to give the
writer's "compliments" to Rose; and, if she. showed any signs of
concern, or seemed to take this mark of attention kindly, to say that he
intended, as soon as circumstances would permit, to come back and see
The compliments were accordingly given as
directed, and poor Rose on receiving them—if one can be said to receive
that which is nothing—almost fainted. But when she was told the sequel,
she soon recovered so far as to be able to laugh, and to say, that "she
doubted, if he had nae ither errand, it wad be lang afore he came back."
The evident agitation which the mere mention of the
subject had occasioned her, made the people afraid to speak of it to her
afterwards. A letter, however, was, by the advice of the kind-hearted
widow, despatched with all possible speed to her distant admirer,
informing him how matters stood, and requesting him to write to Rose
direct, and state what were his intentions, or otherwise the
consequences might be fatal.
Months passed on; no notice was taken of the letter,
no accounts of her lover arrived, and Rose's melancholy and
indisposition evidently increased, but still she spoke not. At last a
stranger came to visit the place, and with him came the clearing up of
Samuel Simpson, the widow's son, had sailed for some
time in a vessel trading to the West Indies, and while his ship was
undergoing repair, he had taken a trip down to see his mother. Several
months before, he had met George Robertson, at one of the sea-ports on
the west coast of England, and heard him state, that he had, by the
unexpected death of an uncle, fallen heir to a valuable property in
Jamaica, of which he was going to take possession, having been advised
to do so by an eminent lawyer. This intelligence reached Rose before
Marion could take any means to prevent its spreading, and from that time
her melancholy abstraction became more painfully evident
Such is the substance of the information I received;
and I was solicited to try my utmost for the relief of my dejected
cousin, hut not to mention the news to her parents, which, I was
assured, would only aggravate her distress. The propriety of this I
could easily see; but alas! what could I do? The first part of the story
promised, fair—the letter seemed to indicate a mutual affection; but
what followed came like a death-blow to hope. The heir of a rich
uncle—embarked on a long voyage, and gone to take possession of a
valuable property!—the probability was, that he would think no more of
Rose, or if he did think of her at all, it would be as a dream of the
night, which is thought of only to be forgotten. I felt that it was a
hopeless case, and I could not help saying so.
On returning to my uncle's, I found Mary Auburn there
before me. She was endeavouring to cheer and comfort Rose, in such a
manner as led me to suspect that she also was in the secret. "Your
melancholy thoughts make ye ill," said she, as I entered, "but you
should aye try to be cheerfu', an' hope the best. If ye only kent what
mony a ane has suffered, an' how lang they've lived, an' how happy they
hae been made after a', ye wad never despair." To this Rose listened
with little attention. But it appeared to me that the two had done
something more than exchanged hearts since I last saw them together.
"Sing 'The Desponding Maiden' to me," said she, "I like to hear you
Mary obeyed; but her singing was no longer the same.
The music might be as accurate ; but to me it seemed to want that tone
and feeling which on a former occasion had sent every word warm and
thrilling to the heart. Her anxiety for her suffering friend was
moreover evident; but it was the anxiety which is felt for another—her
own melancholy was gone. Though her sympathy was sincere and unaffected,
there was peace and quiet beneath, and her eyes no longer drooped, but
beamed with a placid lustre on all they met, and had occasionally an
expression of archness which appeared quite new, and almost foreign to
her former nature. To have known her before, and seen her now, one would
have thought that she had forgotten the cause of her own sadness in
sympathising with the secret sorrows of her friend. Poor girl ! she had
need of sympathy. But, alas ! in such matters what can sympathy avail
% Her peace of mind was evidently gone, her beauty withering, and
her frame hastening to premature decay. I felt that such was the case;
and, with a heavy heart, I took my departure.
Distance, and I know not what, prevented me from
hearing a single word of her for the year following. Nay, let the truth
Of such materials wretched men are made!
—though for nearly two months she was seldom absent
from my thoughts for two hours together. As spring advanced, and the
busy season of summer came on, I entirely forgot her; and it was only
the approach of winter which brought back the image of the pale and
interesting girl who had once attracted so much of my attention. Though
the days were shortening, to me they seemed to lengthen; and as their
number diminished, my anxiety on her account increased. At last the
third Hanselmonday arrived, and I set out on my annual pilgrimage.
During the tedious journey, many and varied were the thoughts which
passed through my mind; but, I recollect well, that which affected mo
most was the possibility—nay, probability— that my cousin, with all the
buoyant spirits and gay fancies which characterised her at our first
meeting, and that melancholy abstraction which pervaded her manner when
I saw her last—that she—the young, the beautiful—might have sunk into an
early grave,, the victim of unrequited love ! And then the grief of her
parents for their only child—the joy of their hearts, and the light of
their eyes—snatched away in the very opening bloom of her existence,
presented itself to my imagination. I saw the look of deep sorrow with
which they would meet me, and felt the pang which my presence would
impart. Such were my feelings, as I stood before the doo,r, which that
day twelvemonth I had been so eager to enter, and some minutes elapsed
ere I could muster resolution to knock.
It is the lot of man to hope for things which can
never be realised, and to fear that which may never come upen him ; and
of these hopes and fears, more than "life's realities," his existence is
made up. The door was answered by Rose herself; and I was welcomed with
a smile as congenial as any I had ever seen play upon her countenance.
In a moment she had me by the hand, and, without giving me time to make
those inquiries which were rising to my tongue's end, she led me into
the house, where, I need not say, my reception was most cordial.
The comfort and cheerfulness of the family were
perfectly restored; and the smiles and blushes of Rose alternated in
such a manner, that had my feelings been what they once were, it is
probable I should have looked upon them as a happy omen, She seemed as
happy and as free from care, as cheerful and as assiduous to please, as
ever she had been; yet somehow she was net the same. There was an air of
mystery about her, for which I could not account; and I did not fail to
remark that certain significant looks and winks passed between her and
her aunt. In about a quarter of an hour after my arrival, Mary
Auburn came in, and again the same telegraphic
communications were made, and the same air of mystery prevailed; but it
was only for a minute; for, as if anticipating an inquiry which they
wished to escape, they kept chattering and asking me questions with such
volubility, that I was completely cheated out of the explanation which I
had intended to ask.
In the meantime the task of diverting me was an easy
one; for, while my ears drank the music made by cheerful voices, my eyes
lacked not subjects for pleasing contemplation. Rose, I have already
said, was restored to perfect health and cheerfulness. The change in
Mary was no less remarkable. From being a modest melancholy girl, with
eyes oftener fixed on the earth than on any other object, and a
complexion rather pale, she had brightened into exquisite loveliness. A
lasting smile played around her mouth; her laugh seemed to rise direct
from the heart, like waters from a fountain ; and there was an
archness in her look, that bespoke the possession of a secret which she
had no immediate desire to communicate.
"Ye've complimented baith Rose an' me," said she, "on
being bonnier than when ye saw us last. When ye have na gotten a wife,
an' we want husbands, whatfor dinna ye fa' in love wi' either her or me!"
"Because," I replied, "I'm fear'd neither her nor you
would fa' in love wi' me."
"But ye ken," said she, "the men maun aye fa' in love
first, an' tell their love too, an' bide our scorn awhile to the
bargain; for though the lasses, puir things, should fa' ower the lugs in
love, they daurna speak a word o't; an' then they may a' dee o' broken
hearts, an' ne'er ane ken—no even their nearest freends."
"What might hinder them to let their love be kenn'd
as weel as the men do?" quoth I, willing to hear what she would say.
"Maybe they wad mak an odd warld if they were aye
able to tell o' their likings," was her reply; "but nature has ta'en
care to keep that power for ither kind o' cattle. An' if ye only kenn'd
the struggle a woman has afore she can tell the man she likes best some
wee hints aboot her affections, after he has deaved her for years wi'
his, ye wad never speer that question. A woman's heart is like a
mouse-trap—love may get in, but it can never get out again, unless the
minister len' a hand to open it."
"Hoot, lassie!" said Bose, loth to be silent while
others had the privilege of speaking—"hoot, lassie! what gars ye tell
him about women, an' their hearts or their heads either—let him learn
This tattle was interrupted by a tap at the door.
Rose, who had been looking out at the window, did not answer the
summons, but hastened into the other apartment, or "ran ben the house,"
as her aunt would have said. Her mother opened the door, and George
Robertson was ushered into the house, or rather ushered in himself; for,
in his impatience, he passed the hostess in the doorway. After casting
his eyes around the apartment with a hurried glance, "Where is my wife?"
he exclaimed. A titter from behind the room door, while it announced
the person he sought, invited him to join her. We could still partially
observe them through the half open door; and after a hearty embrace, and
a kiss, to procure which seemed to be the object of "the base cutty's
manoeuvre," as Aunty Eppie observed, they both returned to the kitchen.
This was surprise enough. The West India proprietor
returned from his rich possessions—from his sugar plantations, his
slaves, his rum, and his tobacco—and married to a country girl—the
husband of my cousin! This was certainly "true love," as the popular
ballad-makers say. The good people on all sides saw my wonder, and
hastened to give an explanation, the substance of which is as follows :—
At my last visit, though I had despaired of being
able to afford Rose any relief, the widow, with stronger faith, had
deemed it her duty to make an effort. Accordingly, she charged her son,
ere he set off for his vessel, with such a letter as she could write to
the supposed West India proprietor. In this she set before him, in
strong but simple language, the pains he had taken to gain Rose's
affection, the stolen meetings which she herself, trusting to his
steadiness, had assisted him to procure, and all those little flatteries
which sink so deep into the heart of a female. She next depicted, in her
own way, the unhappy effect which these had produced, and were likely to
produce, on the poor girl. And, that nothing might be wanting which she
could supply, she concluded by threatening him with the "widow's curse,"
if he should sacrifice, on the altar of his better fortune, the heart he
had so earnestly sought, and forget, in the day of his prosperity, those
who had loved him when he was poor and a stranger.
On entrusting this letter to her son, she instructed
him, as he valued his mother's blessing, either to deliver it himself or
see it put into such hands as would convey it to its destination.
Fortunately his vessel was freighted for the same port; and, shortly
after landing, he had an opportunity of delivering the letter into the
hands of George Robertson himself, corroborating its contents, of
course, by stating what he had seen.
By this time the brilliant prospects of the
individual to whom it was addressed had totally vanished. Owing to a
train of tricks and circumstances, which would be fruitless to detail,
his uncle's property had proved little better than a delusion. He had,
however, been offered a situation of trust and emolument on a
neighbouring plantation; and that love of money which is natural to man
in his civilised state, together with the uncertainty in which he had
left his affair with Rose, had almost induced him to accept of it. "It
might be," he argued, "that her supposed partiality for him was merely
the creation of his own ardent wishes; and, as she was naturally kind to
all, that he had been favoured with only a common share of her smiles."
From these considerations he imagined that it would be better never to
know the truth than to be shocked by a disappointment, and he was either
determined, or determining, to stay where he was; but when he received
Marion's letter, it needed not the fear of her curse to frighten him
home. He left the scene of his delusive hopes without a sigh, and
hastened to seek happiness in peaceful industry and domestic affection.
From the time of his arrival, Rose's health and
spirits began to return. The state of her feelings at last dawned upon
her parents; and, so far from forbidding, they facilitated the marriage.
The bad conduct of a former master made an opening for the young
gardener in his own calling; and everything appeared to promise
happiness and prosperity.